Keller district officials are somewhat optimistic about getting a little more money from the state next year, based on recent news from the Texas Legislature.At the April 18 board meeting, administrators discussed a slightly rosier outlook for the 2013-14 budget year than the past two cycles.After the state’s economy forced $4 billion in cuts from education, district officials had to slash about $25 million from last year’s and this year’s budgets.Moak, Casey & Associates, an Austin consulting firm that specializes in Texas school finance issues, projects that Keller will receive an additional $8 million for 2013-14 and $11.5 million for 2014-15, based on current legislative plans.Officials cautioned that the windfall has not yet been approved.“The dollars are not set in stone. The restoration of money is still strongly in question and could still change,” said Superintendent Randy Reid.Administrators told trustees that they want to wait a while before developing next year’s spending plan, so the amounts are more reliable.Trustees must approve the next budget and tax rate by Aug. 1.Reid said that legislators are looking at giving more additional funds to districts like Keller that receive less per student than many of the surrounding districts.Deputy Superintendent Mark Youngs said the equity adjustments could be prompted by the lawsuit brought by the majority of districts in the state in protest of the current formula for funding education.A few months ago, a state court ruled the system inadequate, inequitable and unconstitutional. The ruling is under appeal but will likely be upheld by the Texas Supreme Court. The state lost a similar lawsuit in 2006.Youngs said that about $10 million of the current $12 million deficit is for expenses that will recur next year.Officials also are looking at another $9 million in additional budget considerations.Items under consideration include modest reductions in class sizes, technology upgrades for aging computers, restoration of some funds for athletics and fine arts and adding back some curriculum department and operations staff positions.If Keller receives the additional money from the state, the deficit would remain at about $11 million.The district has money available in savings, or fund balance, which is currently at $83 million.Several years ago, trustees approved a policy to keep about 20 percent of the operating budget in savings, or about $42 million on a $212 spending plan.Next month, the district will convene a citizens budget committee to serve in an advisory role in developing next year’s budget.The 26-member group includes nine parents, ten principals, five staff members and two trustees.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland