It’s difficult to know what moves to make if you don’t know what dance you’re supposed to be performing.
The Glen Rose Independent School District’s Board of Trustees had their latest workshop on Monday night to shape the new budget for the 2018 fiscal year, and Superintendent Wayne Rotan still doesn’t know if he’s preparing for a smooth waltz — or worst-case scenario — bone-jarring breakdancing.
In Austin, members of the Texas Legislature continue to go round and round over differences in how to handle school finance questions.
“This budget is based on current school finance formulas,” Rotan told trustees at the brief workshop, which was followed by a regular board meeting. “We’re still kind of in a holding pattern on the budget.”
Rotan noted that the GRISD’s tax revenue could be down by $3 million.
But the question of how much money a so-called “property-wealthy” school district like the Glen Rose ISD must surrender to the state through Robin Hood recapture, and the question of reviving the state’s expired ASATR (Additional State Aid For Tax Reduction) program is still a mystery.
Rotan noted that three bills have been filed that, if passed, could extend ASATR payments. Division among state legislators over the issue of school vouchers has been one major holdup on getting anything passed.
“So now we’re back to square one,” Rotan said. “Neither side came up with a different proposal.”
Rotan and the board members are hoping the final chapter of that mystery doesn’t turn into a nightmare. They must pass the final budget plan by Aug. 31. The budget goes into effect on Sept. 1.
The Legislature is in a special session. That 30-day extension is scheduled to end by Aug. 18, Rotan said.
“The timing couldn’t be worse,” Rotan said Wednesday morning.
Rotan is on the executive board of Texas School Coalition’s Chapter 41 school district group. Those are the Texas schools grouped among those among the “Chapter 41” schools that are considered to be property rich and have to surrender money to finance the “property-poor” school districts across the state. Rotan said some of those schools in the coalition facing similar problems include Canadian, Highland Park, Austin Westlake and San Antonio Alamo Heights.
On Tuesday, House Bill 21 passed in the House Education Committee, and it now goes to the full House for consideration. If it becomes state law, Glen Rose will lose an additional $6 in recapture money, on top of the $10.5 million already claimed through Robin Hood.
“The GRISD probably has the most complex property values of any school district in the state,” Rotan stated. “It’s hard to do anything budget-wise because we don’t know what the Legislature is going to do. If (House Bill) 21 passes, we could lose up to $8 million.
“One good thing is, we’re expecting an increase in student enrollment, which offsets that a little bit. There could be a net loss of 2.8 million. We could have some room to tighten more, if we needed to.”
So far, the budget calls for expenditures down by $3 million over last year.
Monday evening’s meeting was the third budget workshop, following a preliminary one in May and the second workshop last month. A final workshop will be scheduled before the Aug. 28 board meeting.
“That’s when we will vote on the property tax rate and formally adopt the budget,” Rotan said.
Rotan found a way to subtly inject a touch of dry humor at the end of his presentation, referring to the day-to-day uncertainty of the news out of Austin.
“Current law may be obsolete by the time we end this meeting,” Rotan said.
Rotan went through highlights of the changes to the GRISD’s Student Code of Conduct, including state-mandated expansion of bullying prevention.
FFA state qualifiers cited
GRHS FFA members who qualified for the state competition were honored at the board meeting.
Those cited were: Emileigh Cantrell, Lilly Birdwell, Jessi Schroeder, Jacob Merrill, Carrolline Kickhoefer, Wyatt Dahl, Cayden Miller, Marissa Cantu, Landen Ibarra, Camron Rush, Marc Moss, Katy Davis, Adrian Barraza, Michaela Johnson, Skyler Pearce, Emma Crabtree and Kris Douglas.
Liability insurance cost jumps
Judy Shipman, director of finance for the GRISD, reported to the trustees that two bids were received for liability insurance coverage. Both bids were higher than last year’s cost, by about 20 percent over last year. Shipman recommended approval of the bid from Property Casualty Alliance of Texas. That was approved by unanimous vote of the five trustees in attendance.
Rotan then submitted a request to suspend teacher evaluations for the upcoming school year, and have the evaluations every other year rather than annually. The change was approved, also by a 5-0 vote.