The school board has already discussed layoffs and other cuts, but now a potential hike in property taxes is now being mentioned. Before the grueling six hour session began, school board member Greg Meyers said he hoped everybody had an open mind.
“Everybody’s facing challenges and at this point in time, I think we don’t need to blame anybody. We need to come together and work to try to find a solution, and in this case, for our kids. We all have a lot of friends in Austin and around the state and around the country that are in the legislature or in congress, and I think at this point in time, coming together is the right thing to do.”
The workshop began with recommendations on the magnet school program, intended to build on the district’s tradition of offering parents options on where to send their kids. Board member Anna Eastman says she hopes the district comes forward with specific policy recommendations.
“A lot times right now, we hear about successes in charter schools and other entities, but we’re doing some wonderful stuff, and our magnet program allows us to have equality in some strategic spots throughout the district, but it also encourages our other schools to be on their toes and grow it to other schools.”
The gathering was then presented with various options for balancing the budget. HISD’s Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett says the district could be short 171-million dollars, or well over 10-percent of the budget.
“We’re starting with a 171-million dollar shortfall. We’ve identified potential cuts that the board will eventually decide on. But once they take those away, we still have 119-million that has to be funded. So that’s where we have to look at the school budget.”
Garrett says the board must decide where to cut costs beginning at the central office. It might even consider raising property taxes. District Superintendant Dr. Terry Grier admits it won’t be easy.
“It’s gonna really come down to one thing, how much revenue are we gonna have? Until we know, we don’t know how deep the cuts will be. To me, it’s like the lesser of how many evils, because none is gonna be good.”
Several more workshops are planned before a budget is approved by the end of June.