Trustees Receive Community Budget Recommendations

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At the December 14 regular meeting, the RISD Board of Trustees received operating budget recommendations from the Community Budget Steering Committee (CBSC), which has been meeting for six months to arrive at measures the district can consider to address a significant operating shortfall in the 2024-25 budget.

“We thank the members of our community and campus staff who have worked since July to study the district’s financial situation and collaborate on these recommendations,” said Superintendent Tabitha Branum. “The sky is not falling in RISD, and in fact, the opposite is true. At the conclusion of this budget process, we expect to have the long term financial flexibility necessary to provide the resources for our students and educators to continue to thrive.”

The projected budget shortfall is attributed primarily to no funding increases from the Texas legislature since 2018-19, coupled with student enrollment loss from the pandemic.

The CBSC focused its work since the summer in four primary areas: central administration and support; facility utilization; revenue generation; and staffing and compensation. The recommendations offer a phased-in, sustainable financial plan that aligns with RISD’s vision and beliefs. Major recommendations include:

  • Consolidation of some elementary schools. RISD operates the least efficient elementary school model among peer districts and currently has more than 9,000 open elementary seats.
  • Opening enrollment to families residing outside RISD boundaries. Schools with excess capacity could serve families residing near district boundaries to increase enrollment, while prioritizing enrollment of  families within the district.
  • Placing a 3 cent maintenance & operating tax-rate increase election before RISD voters. Under state law, the district’s operating tax rate dropped more than 17 cents this year and is currently at its lowest level since 1984-85 (39 years).
  • Further cuts in central and support departments. RISD reduced spending by $14.4 million last year, primarily from areas that didn’t directly impact classrooms.
  • Implementing a new staffing framework to ensure efficient allocations and operations.

Trustees traditionally begin annual budget planning in January, and the work of the committee provides trustees with a starting point when 2024-25 budget discussions begin next semester. In January, district leadership and administration will present a timeline and more details surrounding the recommendations, including which elementary campuses could be considered for consolidation.

“As part of the discussion and planning process next semester, we will engage school communities potentially impacted to answer questions and consider their feedback,” said Branum. “I want to be as clear as I can be – while we have some difficult decisions and conversations ahead, no employee will lose a job as a result of any possible consolidation. Like most districts, we experience staff turnover each year, and if our trustees determine that school consolidations are necessary, then the operating efficiencies realized would be absorbed through our annual attrition.”

RISD trustees are expected to discuss 2024-25 budget planning at the majority of second semester meetings beginning January 18, 2024. While budgets are typically adopted in June, decisions impacting 2024-25 operations will need to be made sooner for planning purposes.

Watch the December 14 CBSC budget recommendations and discussion.

Learn more about the work of the Community Budget Steering Committee.

Visit the RISD budget planning page.

Have feedback or a question? Engage with RISD through Let’s Talk.

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Trustees Reorganize, Discuss MAP Data, Teacher Survey, Cell Phone Policy

At the June 6 board work session, RISD shared two end of year performance metrics with trustees, including end of year MAP results and data from RISD’s annual climate survey of teachers, which informed a discussion about the district’s cellphone-free policy for students. In addition, trustees were sworn in and reorganized for 2024-25.