FORT WORTH -- School officials say it is too soon to attempt a tax election in September but left open the possibility that one could be called next summer.
Administrators said, if approved, that a tax ratification election could raise about $44 million for the Fort Worth school district. However, trustees seemed reluctant to support such a move during a special board meeting Tuesday at which officials discussed the 2012-13 budget.
Trustee Carlos Vasquez said the district couldn't ask residents to support a tax increase while it has savings in the bank. The district will have about $74 million in reserves by the end the 2012-13 fiscal year, administrators have estimated.
"How many of us in the public and in Fort Worth have two months in the bank to have the money we need to survive?" Vasquez said.
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Later he added, "I think we need to tighten our belt more."
The Texas Education Agency has long recommended that districts maintain at least two months of operating costs in reserves.
Trustee Norm Robbins said the district needs to do more to make sure it is running as efficiently as possible before approaching voters. He suggested asking a group of community experts to analyze the district's operations.
Trustee Judy Needham said she couldn't support a tax increase unless there was considerable support for such an election.
The United Educators Association, a local group that represents area school employees, recently conducted a poll to gauge the community's opinion about such an election. The findings have not been released. Steven Poole, UEA deputy executive director, said the group is still combing through data.
About three dozen people attended Tuesday's meeting to ask trustees to save the jobs of library clerks, 21 of whom have been notified that they will be laid off.
The district has been looking at various reductions -- including laying off 84 employees -- that will bring next year's shortfall down to $27.6 million.
But some trustees indicated Tuesday that they would rather cut professional development, which has long been criticized by some staff as poor and as taking teachers out of classrooms too long.
"I'd rather cut the training ... and save some jobs," Needham said, adding that training could be added once more funds were available.
Superintendent Walter Dansby said administrators would revisit clerk assignments. He also noted that next year's training will be more focused than before and will address individual campus needs rather than be dictated from central administration.
Trustee Ann Sutherland said she was concerned that the clerks were notified that they would be laid off without a public discussion or a board discussion first. She suggested that the district form a finance committee that would review proposed cuts in the future before they are brought before trustees.