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Fort Worth school trustees want more budget information

FORT WORTH -- With two months left to finalize next year's budget, some Fort Worth school board members want more details on how cuts will affect the district.

"This is the least information I've had in 16 years," Trustee Judy Needham said after a budget presentation during Tuesday's board meeting. "We haven't seen one iota of what they're thinking of doing and that will only give us a couple of weeks to make a decision after that."

The district must adopt the 2012-13 budget by the end of June. The budget is projected to be about $620 million, not including reductions that have yet to be factored in, administrators said. The projected budget shortfall of about $43 million will be made up with the district's reserves.

In his brief presentation, Chief Financial Officer Hank Johnson told trustees that administrators are finalizing areas where they can be more efficient and adjust staffing levels.

Trustee Christene Moss asked Johnson for spreadsheets -- like those provided last year -- to show where cuts are being made. Johnson said that information will be available later.

Johnson noted that last year the board served as a budget committee and reviewed every item piecemeal. This year, he said, the district is taking a more traditional approach, in which administrators work through much of the budget before presenting it to the board.

Board President Juan Rangel said this year's budget process needs to be different from last year's because the cuts are harder to make.

"We have budget sessions coming up next month where many of the trustees' concerns will be addressed in very detailed ways," Rangel said. "Hank is ready to give us the information that we need, but that will have to be done in budget work sessions. We're going to need time to review it and really discuss it, not just in an hour presentation."

The district is working through $55 million in state funding cuts over this year and next. Johnson said the only way to raise more money is through a voter-approved tax rate increase, which could raise up to $44 million.

Trustees said they will not bring forward a tax election now.

Johnson said a hiring freeze, increases in state and federal allotments, and other factors will give the district about $17 million more than expected in reserves at the end of this fiscal year.

Eva-Marie Ayala,

817-390-7700

Twitter: @fwstayala

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