Arlington school district braces for deep cuts in state funding

ARLINGTON -- School Superintendent Jerry McCullough said he will recommend deep budget cuts next month to prepare for a potential $35 million reduction in state funding to his district.

The projected loss is part of a draft state budget for next year that McCullough said would be "disastrous to the future of our state and our nation."

Districts statewide must take a hard look at their budgets after the release this week of the state Legislative Budget Board's recommendations.

The proposal would cut the Texas Education Agency's budget by $6.7 billion over the next two years, including $5 billion for school districts. The recommendation amounts to a 14 percent funding cut for each district.

"Texas is currently 48th in education, and this situation will only make it worse," McCullough told the school board and audience at a board meeting Thursday, hoping to prepare residents for potentially drastic cuts. He urged residents to write their legislators.

The state's draft budget would cut Arlington's basic state funding by $27.6 million and state grants by $7.5 million. The grants that would not be funded include a $1.7 million technology allotment for tech staff training and other support services and a $3.2 million grant that allows the district to serve young students in area day-care centers, McCullough said.

The proposed cuts could also mean losses of $80 million for the Fort Worth district, $13.5 million for the Grapevine-Colleyville district and $5 million for the Crowley district.

The Arlington district's current budget of $443.3 million includes a projected $13.4 million operating deficit that will be covered by reserve funds. It's the fourth consecutive annual budget shortfall, and officials project several more years of deficits.

State funding accounts for about 44 percent of the district's revenue. Most of the rest comes from local taxes.

School board President Gloria Peña said cuts approved for the 2010-11 budget were serious but not as bad as those that could result from the reduced state budget.

"At this point, it looks like the potential for losses is mind-boggling," Pena said Friday. Nothing is off the table, she said, including job cuts, which she hopes could be handled through attrition.

"We may have to reshuffle," she said. "We're looking at everything -- restructuring, reorganizing to make sure we have people where we need them."

But she and McCullough vowed to work to minimize the impact on classroom instruction.

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641