LUBBOCK, TX - The Lubbock Independent School District adopted a new budget for the upcoming school year. This comes on the heels of a failed bill in the state Legislature, HB 21, intended to fix public school financing.
The school board agreed on a balanced budget of $222,391,794 for the upcoming school year. That amount is down around $17,000 from last year's budgeted revenues.
They expect there to be no tax rate increase.
The district was expecting $4.8 million if the legislature came to an agreement, but the Senate and House could not reconcile, and the bill fell through.
“We ended up with zero new dollars,” LISD’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Baum said. “HB 21 collapsed, the Senate's version collapsed, and there was really nothing done in Austin related to school finance. So we moved forward with the same laws from last year and the year before, and had to seek efficiencies where we can and make adjustments where we can to try to take care of our employees and ultimately the students within our district.”
Laura Vinson of the LISD School Board says the responsibility fell back on them, and they just worked harder.
“Again, we bring it back locally,” she said. “We are doing everything we can to cut our expenditures, run efficiently and do all we can for our employees.”
“It came back with much less money and very little for Lubbock ISD,” LISD Superintendent Dr. Berhl Robertson said. “We are pretty discouraged about not additional funding and not a lot of attention paid to the 5.3 million children in public education in Texas.”
Teachers, along with the board of trustees, were disappointed.
“The legislature did not do its job, specifically the Senate, to provide more funds for public schools,” Texas State Teachers Association representative Clinton Gill. “So schools all across the state are struggling to be able to provide compensation plans that will increase teacher’s pay.”
Despite the lack of new funding from the state, LISD was able to give their employees a 1% average increase in salary, which amounts to $500 more for teachers.
The superintendent says the raise is small, but they did the best they could.
“Given the fact that we didn't get the school finance plan passed in the legislature during the regular session, we have what we have, so there was no new revenue,” Robertson said. “So we worked about trying to figure out ways to reduce to give our employees something. We were able to do that, so I am appreciative of all that happened behind the scenes.”
School financing may be back on the table in the upcoming special session. Governor Abbott has listed it as one of the potential items of discussion. The board says they are hopeful, but not optimistic that any new money will come in. They had to go ahead and construct this year's budget without taking any special session action into consideration.
Though small, teachers say they are grateful.
“The fact that they were able to do something and that's what is important,” Gill said. “Because some school districts across the state won't be able to give anything, and some will actually have to shut down because of the legislature's failure to act upon school finance.”
The board says if additional funds become available, they will consider a one-time payment for employees later on in the year. Gill says the Texas State Teachers Association will continue to push for this possibility.
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