Officials say state’s inadequate funding makes deficit ‘a reality’
The Denton school board has set the 2013-14 budget and tax rate hearing for June 11.
District officials are proposing a budget with expenses totaling more than $208.6 million. According to district documents, Denton faces a deficit of more than $4.3 million, said Debbie Monschke, the district’s executive director of budget and finance.
“Basically, this year the growth in the budget is based on the needs in growth,” she said.
Monschke said the budget includes $9.5 million in personnel increases, including $5 million set aside for a salary compensation plan, which district officials intend to discuss at the next board meeting.
More than $3 million is designated for staffing at the new Bettye Myers Middle School, slated to open in August in Shady Shores, Monschke said. One million dollars in reserves was set aside for the opening of the school. Non-personnel increases total nearly $2.3 million.
Officials say the district can absorb the deficit with the use of the fund balance, healthy tax collections and an increase in enrollment. The district projects enrollment to grow by nearly 3 percent.
It’s being proposed that the district’s tax rate remain at $1.49 per $100 valuation.
On June 11, the school board will be briefed on the proposed budget and the public will have an opportunity to comment on it. The board must adopt the 2013-14 budget no later than June 30, and the new fiscal year begins July 1.
During the 83rd regular legislative session, legislators passed a $197 billion budget in which $4 billion was restored for public education funding.
The governor’s signature will get the Denton school district on its way back from the cuts imposed in the previous legislative session, but it will not restore all cuts, Superintendent Jamie Wilson said.
During the 82nd legislative session, funding for Texas public education was reduced by more than $5 billion. The impact on the Denton school district over the course of two years was a reduction of $17 million in state funding, which led to reduction of 284 positions, mostly absorbed through attrition.
The loss of personnel resulted in increased class sizes, fewer custodians for each school and less support staff, Wilson said.
The state’s funding formula for public education has remained unchanged since 2006, he said.
After the funding cuts in 2011, more than 600 districts filed lawsuits against the state claiming that the method of funding public schools violated the Texas Constitution and the amount was inadequate. A state district judge ruled in favor of the school districts in February and ordered the state to restructure the school finance system.
“Since we’re running on less than 2006 funding levels per student, then a deficit budget is a reality,” Wilson said. “What both chambers have sent to the governor helps in the equity portion of the lawsuit but not in the adequate portion of the lawsuit. When you look at our budget being a deficit budget ... that is a direct indication that the funding is not adequate.”
Mia Price, who completed her last meeting as school board president Tuesday, calls the deficit unfortunate.
“We don’t like it,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that that’s what we have to do.”
However, Price said the district has gained hope from news that property value appraisals are expected to grow by more than $300 million over last year.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.