HISD budget shortfall may prompt major changes
HOUSTON Administrators are weighing their options, and the changes could involve raising taxes. There could also be a shakeup when it comes to getting children to school. They're details that haven't been considered until now. The district already cut $170 million from its budget, but that's still not enough to balance the sheets. Now they're considering more options, including how your kids get to school. Altering the bus schedule can alter the budget -- a serious consideration for a school district struggling to balance their budget. HISD administrators are in a holding pattern, waiting on the state legislature to decide how to fund the state's public schools. "If you'd asked me a year ago if I thought HISD losing $170 million would be a minimum cut, I would have just laughed," HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said. "It's not good; I mean, it's just going to have a dramatic impact on our school system." Right now, one proposed HISD budget cut includes the possibility of changing bus schedules for an estimated $1 million in savings. It's one of several options, including raising the property tax rate as well as cutting back on academic programs. HISD is short approximately $60 million though to balance their budget. One board member says raising taxes will be a tough sell. "I don't think it's fair to us. I don't think it's fair to the taxpayers when we are trying to be good stewards of their money," HISD board trustee Greg Meyers said. "It puts us over a barrel and the last thing we want to do in a climate like this is to even begin to raise taxes." But it's the more immediate possibility of changing bus schedules that worries their union president, especially since HISD has already made cuts in hours among their janitorial and cafeteria staffs. Bus driver hours have not yet been cut. "If our bus drivers lose hours or lose bodies, we will not support it," HESP President Wretha Thomas said. A lot is on the line for union members. Trustees are expected to begin talking about the new cuts at their next board meeting at 7:30am Thursday.