The second largest school district in Central Texas is assessing the damage it anticipates as a result of projected state cuts to education. Here's the letter Superintendent Chavez sent to employees yesterday.
Dear Round Rock ISD Employee,
As you know, we are facing budget challenges for the 2011-2012 school year. When I first wrote to you I explained the need for us to reduce our budget by 5 percent, which equates to $17 million. Since the first budget update, there has been significant information coming from the legislature. Originally, school leaders were under the assumption that the state would reduce public education by $4 billion; however, the amount is closer to $10 billion.
Based on the new deficit, Round Rock ISD has received estimates that it will lose between $47 million to $73 million in state funding. Numerous factors play a large role in why the state is in such dire straits. Of course the economy has taken a toll on Texas’ finances, coupled with the error in the state’s calculation of the business franchise tax, followed by the state using federal stimulus dollars to create a larger hole, all of which has contributed to today’s school finance crisis.
As a Round Rock ISD employee, you deserve to know the challenges the district is truly facing. Originally we believed a 5 percent reduction to our budget would be challenging but not unbearable. With our new knowledge, it is only prudent that we prepare a budget that considers at least a $60 million reduction. I still anticipate using a portion of the district’s fund balance to lower the amount we need to reduce. Our budget reduction process has not changed and we will continue to collect data from all stakeholders in order to develop a comprehensive list of possible budget cuts. Later this week we plan to release a list of possible budget cuts which have been submitted by stakeholders.
Unfortunately the new budget challenges will make it impossible to stay true to all of our Budget Reduction Guiding Principles. District leaders had hoped to address staff reductions through attrition and reassignment; however, this alone will not be possible. We will need to consider eliminating and/or significantly scaling back programs and departments. I know now that we will not be able to employ all our current employees. It is our goal to inform employees by the end of April of their employment status. At this time, I would like to encourage all employees who are considering not returning next year to please notify their supervisor as soon as possible. You can also visit the district’s employee Web site for additional information on resignations. The earlier we know about your intentions not to return next year could save someone a job.
It is also evident that our budget reductions will significantly impact our schools, teachers and students. We had hoped to protect the classroom as much as possible; however, reducing our budget by $60 million is not possible if those we serve are not impacted by the reductions. It is important to note that the services Round Rock ISD has provided will change and the changes will most likely upset various stakeholders.
Please continue to visit the district’s Budget Reduction Web page, go to www.roundrockisd.org and click on the Budget Reduction link under Tools & Resources. You will be able to ask questions and send us your comments. All questions will be answered; however, please be patient with us. District leaders from Finance, Instruction, Human Resources and Community Relations are working together to process the hundreds of questions received to date, while maintaining their essential department responsibilities.
I can’t express enough how important it is for you to contact your state legislator and impress upon them the importance of making education a priority and the need for them to use all available resources to balance the budget while protecting education. I recognize that this news is somber, but now more than ever we must work together to ensure that all students will learn... whatever it takes!
Jesús H. Chávez, Ph.D.
Round Rock ISD Superintendent