For the second consecutive year the Fort Worth school district officials face reaching into their fund balance, this time for $19 million to help cover expenditures of $744 million for the 2016-2017 school year, preliminary figures show.
The expenditures include an anticipated $22.8 million to pay for facility upgrades and more staff related to growth, such as expansion of specialty schools.
A tax rate increase to cover costs has not been discussed.
Chief Financial Officer Elsie Schiro released the preliminary figures at a recent budget workshop. The next workshop is scheduled for April 19.
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Schiro told trustees on Thursday that the district isn’t pulling in enough revenues from new students to support its host of specialty programs. It announced a year ago that it had to pull $21 million from reserves to cover $704 million in expenditures under the 2015-2016 budget.
Part of last year’s shortfall was blamed on a software glitch with the Tarrant Appraisal District that Schiro said cost the district $12 million.
$19 million amount expected to be taken from reserves to help fund the 2016-17 budget.
The district is growing by about 1,000 students a year, which includes a surge in pre-Kindergarten enrollment, Schiro said.
Some of the district’s specialty schools have such low enrollments that it may cost the district up to $10,000 per-pupil to educate the youngsters at some campuses.
Some trustees weren’t happy to hear about the lopsided budget.
“We got all this stuff and we’re not getting 1,800 new kids a year,” Trustee Judy Needham said. “We probably shouldn’t add any more programs for a while.”
The district, over the last several years, has opened up more than a dozen specialty programs, from a pair of same-sex schools to a stand-alone campus for students hoping to learn more than two foreign languages.
Each year, the programs expand to include a new grade level, and more teachers are needed to handle the growth, Schiro explained. The district also has opened dozens of pre-Kindergarten classrooms at a number of campuses.
Over the next two years, the district expects to open a multi-million dollar campus for students interested in the performing arts and a school for students bent on careers in science, technology, math and engineering. The construction is being paid for as part of a bond referendum approved by voters in 2013.
The district’s revenue, which come from from state, federal and local tax collections, is projected at $714 million.
We got all this stuff and we’re not getting 1,800 new kids a year.
Trustee Judy Needham
Last year, early estimates showed that a 1 percent pay increase would cost the district an annual $6.1 million.
A breakdown of growth-related costs for 2016-17 include:
▪ $4.6 million for program growth;
▪ $7.64 million on student growth;
▪ $10.6 million on facilities improvements;
▪ $1.3 million on student achievement commitments.
As of June 30, the district’s reserves fund is expected to stand at $161 million and is at a healthy level, according to the Texas Education Agency, Schiro said.
Trustees have to adopt a budget by July 1, when the new fiscal year starts.