McAllen ISD working on trimming down $14 million budget deficit

The McAllen ISD school board meeting room in the district's Administration Building on Oct. 13, 2021 in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])
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McALLEN — The school district here has been reducing its projected $14 million budget deficit to a balanced one through departmental reductions, the closing or consolidation of positions and the reassigning of staff.

With the deadline for Texas school districts to submit budgets around the corner, districts are finding ways to trim down their deficits but that comes at a cost in different ways.

This storm of budget deficits impacting all corners of the state is due to the withholding of more than $4 billion dollars allocated to school districts from the state. Gov. Greg Abbott is holding the funds to get a school voucher bill passed.

At the sixth budget workshop for McAllen ISD on Wednesday, the school board and public heard the different ways the district is trimming down the budget deficit through a detailed PowerPoint.

The largest cost savings solution of about $7.1 million is the closing or consolidation of positions in the district with the reassigning of 20 ESSER positions as well.

Closing about 150 vacancies, it saves the district around $5.8 million.

Reassigning 20 ESSER positions saves the district about $1.28 million.

Reduction in departments, software and subscriptions is also projected to save the district about $3.4 million.

Offering a summary of the reduction in software and subscriptions, it looks to save about $2 million.

Departmental budget reductions may see a 10% reduction across the board from the superintendent’s office to the police department to the athletics and fine arts departments, will save the district about $1.46 million.

The largest reductions in the district come from the Department of Technology, with a budget of $2.24 million with a reduction of about $224,000; instructional learning, with a budget of $2.1 million with a reduction of about $216,000; and athletics with a budget just over $2 million reduced by $197,000.

Another savings solution was the strategic use of state and federal funds for the police department, nurses and Pre-Kinder aides for at-risk classrooms.

Reclassifying five police officers from the general fund to the state safety allotment saves the district about $200,000.

Using state and federal programs such as Title IV for three health program medical assistants saves the district $75,000; two police officers for intervention prevention saves the district $80,000; and the continuation to use state comp funds for Pre-K aides for at-risk classrooms saves about $200,000.

On one of the PowerPoint slides, it lists the projected revenue, expenses and difference from the general fund. With about $152 million in revenue and $155 million in expenses, it is projected to have a projected difference of about $2.98 million which includes a 2% salary increase for all district employees.

It also lists possible increases to the general fund such as special education overage with a little over $700,00 and IDEA part B, Formula overage, of about $914,000, which is a fund classification to be used to account on a project basis and funds to operate education programs for children with disabilities.

“In working towards a balanced budget, a staffing analysis was conducted,” Board president Sofia Peña said. “That study revealed an overage in staffing. The district engaged in cost savings measures that included closing and consolidating positions with an emphasis on keeping everyone employed. To date, we have been able to reduce the budget deficit from 14 million dollars to balanced. We are thankful for the time and effort put in by all staff, including the Budget Reduction Committee, which is representative of all departments within the district.”

Other ideas from the savings committee that are pending or ongoing are improving attendance through optional flexible school day programs, decreasing substitute costs by 20% by reducing teacher pullouts in training, reducing overtime at departments, specifically overtime at the police department, and lowering staff travel and student field trips.

School districts in Texas have until June 19 to prepare and propose a budget.