Fort Bend ISD considers options to reduce costs

February 2, 2010 1:25:32 PM PST
Like many school districts in our area and across the state, Fort Bend ISD is considering various options to help reduce a projected $18 million budget deficit. A recent cost savings study for our district was conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), and contains recommendations or options for the district to consider as we look for ways to reduce overall budget expenditures. TASB has conducted similar studies for other school districts in the state. In summary, the TASB study identified a total potential savings of approximately $23 million that could be reached through the use of several strategies including programmatic changes, increasing class sizes, reassigning staff to different positions, requiring all campuses to allocate staff in the master schedule consistently, as well as through attrition and retirements.

Fort Bend ISD officials stress that the data contained in the TASB study are recommendations or options for the district to consider in developing the budget. No decisions have been made. In addition to identifying staffing efficiencies, all areas of the operating budget, i.e., transportation, maintenance and operations, construction, energy management, etc., will be studied in an effort to identify additional savings.

The superintendent communicated to all FBISD employees in an email sent January 29 that the district's main focus will be to not only ensure quality instructional programs, but to do so without loss of jobs. The district is providing an opportunity via an electronic survey for employees to submit any ideas they may have to help the district address the budget challenges.

Officials expecte to have a plan ready to share with staff in late February.
Dear Fort Bend ISD Staff Members,

I am sure each of you is well aware of the continued budget challenges our district is facing. We have all worked hard over the past few years to reduce costs where possible, while still providing quality instruction for our students. I commend you for your efforts, because even with tighter and tighter budgets, our students have continued to make steady gains in achievement.

The budget challenges we are going to face in the days and months to come are much more serious than ever before. Due to the failure of the Texas Legislature to provide necessary increases to district revenues since 2006, we are being forced into a position of having to operate with a deficit budget for the second school year in a row. We simply cannot continue this trend and must take drastic action to work toward developing a balanced budget for the coming fiscal year.

Most all of the school districts across the state and across the nation are facing severe budget challenges due to a lack of sufficient funding. Many districts have already had to take drastic measures including a reduction in force, increasing class sizes, cutting programs, raising employees' contributions to their health care plans, and foregoing employee pay raises for several years.

Our district has implemented very few of these drastic actions in recent years. Instead, we have maximized all available resources, including managing the budget and making fiscally responsible decisions, which have allowed us to be in a better financial position than many other districts. Despite these efforts, we still must make some hard decisions in the coming weeks to address the budget shortfall we will be facing in the fall.

I want you to know that the Board of Trustees and administration are carefully studying several options and strategies to reduce $18,000,000 in costs. We know that we must make some very difficult decisions and that in some cases a different service delivery model will be needed. Our main focus, as we work through this difficult budgeting process, will be to not only ensure quality instructional programs, but to do so without loss of jobs. Nonetheless, I am equally sure there will be reassignments which must take place as we shrink the depth and extensiveness of our operations.

As soon as a strategy is in place, we will communicate the information to you. Our goal is to have a plan ready to share with staff in late February. While we work through these difficult times, I hope you will continue to remain focused on the positive progress we have made in Fort Bend ISD, as well as the progress we will continue to make. Thank you for your time and attention.


Tim Jenney