BEDFORD -- To cover a budget gap, the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district trimmed $5 million in areas ranging from ballroom dancing in elementary schools to the substitute teacher fund. Through budget cuts and tapping the fund balance, H-E-B will avoid laying off teachers.
That makes the district a rarity in the area and perhaps the state.
"Teachers cannot do their jobs if they're worried about even having a job," Superintendent Gene Buinger said. "We told everyone early on that we would weather this storm without layoffs."
Texas schools are facing $10 billion in state funding cuts, and H-E-B anticipates receiving about $15 million less from the state. But the exact number may not be known until the summer and depends on how much the state designates from its rainy-day fund to make up the education shortfall.
The $5 million in cuts represent about 3.2 percent of H-E-B's $155.5 million operating budget.
Trustees recently approved a range of cuts, including freezing salaries and eliminating 34 positions through attrition. Staffers will no longer be reimbursed for part of college tuition, and the teacher-mentor program, which paired first-year teachers with veteran educators, will be eliminated.
District spokeswoman Judy Ramos said some programs may find ways to operate without funding. For example, Cradle to Classroom will no longer be able to deliver packets to North Hills Hospital for new parents. The program will still send an e-mail newsletter to about 450 subscribers and is looking for additional ways to reach new parents.
Trustees also voted to cut $1 million from the district's technology budget, but that would be offset if district voters approve $136.5 million in bonds in May. The bond package allocates $28 million to technology.
H-E-B began preparing for the budget crisis in 2006, Buinger said, when the state started running a deficit.
The district padded its fund balance using energy-saving lights in buildings and private water wells to maintain its sports fields. It also began charging teachers $40 a year to cover the cost of running classroom refrigerators and staggered school start times to use fewer buses.
The Texas Education Agency recommends districts keep three months' worth of operating expenses in fund balance. H-E-B has $70 million, or five months' worth of expenses. It will draw down the fund to balance its budget next school year.
"We knew there would at some point be a reckoning," Buinger said. "The state was digging a deep hole."
Faith Waligora, president of the H-E-B Council of PTAs, said she and other parents were relieved that the district avoided layoffs.
"They have monitored money very closely and carefully," Waligora said. "The hope is most parents won't even notice the cuts."
Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056