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Legislative Matters:
A Message from Your Superintendent of Schools

March 16, 2011

Dear Parents, Staff & Community,

We are all aware of the drastic cuts being proposed for public schools across the State of Texas. The preliminary House and Senate budgets cut $9 billion to $10 billion from the state's investment in educating the 4.6 million children who represent its future prosperity, economic well-being and the wellspring for an educated citizenry.

While our Legislature is working hard to give schools flexibility through long overdue regulatory relief, the magnitude of the funding shortfall cannot be overstated. Should this number be cut in half, it would still mean about $500 less per student for each of the next two school years.

Plano ISD is not immune from the effects of the state's budget shortfall and will suffer funding reductions along with all Texas districts. Based on the state budgets under consideration, Plano ISD's funding would face cuts of $57 million to $64 million per year.

Our district's annual operating budget is $461 million, so the potential impact is devastating and will forever change the landscape of the educational program offered in our district. If we laid off every district-level administrator, every campus administrator, nurse, counselor, librarian, educational diagnostician and every instructional aide, we still wouldn't reach the $57 million mark.

Plano ISD's plan for both short and long term

So what is the district's plan for moving forward? It begins with maintaining a sense of perspective that it is still early in the legislative session. Our state leaders have the ability to limit the cuts to education. Using the Rainy Day Fund to pay for the current state deficit would free over $4 billion for the next biennium.

The legislature has additional means it has used in past deficit situations to help mitigate the severity of these reductions.  Nevertheless, Plano ISD will face a significant reduction in state funding, which means a reduction in the net amount of local tax dollars it is allowed to keep.

Our plan starts with spending less and planning very carefully for the biennium. Reducing the budget overall and also planning for the possibility of additional tax revenue completes the long-range scope.

We have currently targeted $25 million of reductions in expenditures for 2011-12, and we plan to use our local fund balance to offset the remaining shortfall. In the second year of the biennium, we will implement more reductions and take action on the potential need for a local tax rate election pending the outcome of the legislative session. Unless the state uses other revenue sources such as the Rainy Day Fund to offset the initially forecasted funding reductions to Plano ISD of approximately $60 million, a tax rate election will be unavoidable.

We cannot lay off enough personnel (whether non-instructional or instructional) to meet the amount of cuts required and remotely resemble the services, programs and schools that currently meet our community’s expectations.

Our Board of Trustees had the foresight to build our district's financial reserves in anticipation of this time. The state's decision in 2005 to lower school property taxes from $1.50 to $1 and only partially replace the revenue made this day inevitable.

While not a permanent solution, the district's reserves can help provide the time to be thoughtful and wise in how the district strengthens its commitment to academic excellence in the face of diminished resources by the state. These financial reserves are a transitional bridge to supplement budgets in a time of uncertain revenue sources.

Ultimately, the district cannot escape the reality that the salaries and benefits of its employees are the major drivers of the budget. Schools, as places where children are educated and cared for, are people intensive. While teachers are the heart of educating children, there are many hands that help them in their work. It is important to note that ninety percent of the district’s payroll cost is at the campus level focused on student learning.

How to make your voice heard

In closing, there is strong reason for concern, and there is no doubt that funding will be reduced significantly. As a taxpayer of our district, you have made a remarkable commitment to educating its children and all children across the state by making Plano ISD your community of choice.

This year will see the district pass the $1.3 billion mark in the 18 years of recapture since 1993. It is important that our legislators and state leaders know your beliefs, values and priorities for our children and children across the state as they develop the state budget for the next two years.

It is important that they hear from you as parents, taxpayers and citizens on the use of the Rainy Day Fund and the role you believe it has in mitigating the effects of a $10 billion cut to K-12 education.

We are appreciative of Senator Florence Shapiro’s efforts to supplement the state’s funding levels in order to cut the shortfall in half. Her current proposed plan does utilize the Rainy Day Fund and other reductions which will place approximately $6 billion back into the school finance system and potentially minimize local funding reductions to Plano ISD.

Governor Rick Perry’s recent announcement supporting the use of the Rainy Day Fund up to $3.2 billion relieves the financial pressures in the current year. However, this will not be enough when allocated to local districts such as Plano ISD to cover the shortfalls in the next biennium and is woefully short of the current Senate plan.

Click here for Texas legislators' contact information.

Sincerely,

Dr. Doug Otto
Superintendent of Schools

 

 

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Related Links

Financial Exigency &
Budget Presentations

Plano ISD braces for significant staff and program reductions due to dramatic cuts in state funding. Follow school board reports.

Advocacy for Plano ISD
Legislative Priorities
Government Contacts
School Finance History
News Sources

Collin County Days
Trustees and administrators met with legislators in Austin and testified before the Senate Education Committee.