The WISD received a grant to improve algebra readiness at the Junior Senior High. Teachers and students are learning the new technologies (computers, smart boards, calculators, etc.) made available through the grant.
The teachers have attended several days of intensive staff development and are ready to put what they have learned into practice. The elementary campus has worked on curriculum development and coordination and a recycling/green service project.
Solar energy system at multi-purpose building
We are also ready to begin installation of a solar energy system at the new multipurpose center. This system is made possible through a State Energy Grant from the Comptroller’s Office. All energy at the Multi-purpose Center should be provided through this solar panel system.
The system comes with a monitoring component which will allow teachers and students to observe and track energy usage and savings provided by the solar energy project.
We are also working on a grant to provide a new chiller (HVAC) system for the district’s classrooms. This grant is also made possible through the Comptroller’s Office. We should know by late September if the district receives this grant.
The new multipurpose center is behind schedule and is not expected to open for games before the end of September. We believe it will be well worth the wait, though.
Budget cuts/interlocal agreements
Between the loss in state funding due to the State Legislature and Senate Bill 1, and the loss of federal and state academic grants, WISD has almost $500,000 less funding this year than last.
The board and administration worked diligently last spring to make painful cuts of more than $400,000, including a reduction in force of four staff and not replacing seven others. We have cut staff from about 107 four years ago to about 88 this year.
Refugio ISD and Woodsboro have worked out an Inter-local agreement to provide art, calculus and various vocational classes in the midst of these budget shortfalls. Both districts are attempting to provide programs that students want and need in spite of the shortfalls in funding.
The district also cut one bus route. Even with the cuts, the board has insured that over 69% of all funds are expended on instruction and instructional-related services.
Two and one-half years ago, the citizens of the WISD provided a much needed 13 cent increase in local funding through a tax ratification election. Without this additional local funding, the WISD would have had to make even deeper cuts. We are expecting more reductions in funding next year.
Where does the money go?
To demonstrate where that money goes, out of a tax rate of $1.17 for maintenance and operations, WISD expenditures look like this for a typical student:
The typical student begins the school day long before the first bell with a bus ride to school. The student also rides the bus home. This costs about 3 ½ cents.
The student arrives to find a building that is clean and maintained. This costs about 10.5 cents.
The building is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer and the lights work. This costs about 3 ½ cents.
The district has security cameras and if the student is hurt, our school nurse cares for them. This costs about 2 cents.
The student goes to class to find a teacher ready to begin instruction. This costs about 57 cents.
While in class, or on the playground, or in the cafeteria, the student may have access to an instructional paraprofessional and to district purchased instructional supplies. This costs about 10.5 cents
The teacher uses a curriculum that is aligned with state standards and that builds on information the student learned the year before. The teacher has been trained regarding Texas learning standards and effective instructional practices and has access to instructional leadership staff that provides support. This costs about 3 ½ cents.
Midway through the day, the student goes to the cafeteria for lunch. This costs about 6 cents.
Alter lunch, the student may go to the library to work on a project. This costs about 2 cents.
After school, the student may visit the counselor to talk about instructional or personal issues. This costs about 5 cents.
Throughout the day, the student benefits from the fact that the school is well run. Classes begin on time, disruptions are kept to a minimum, and staff members have access to the support they need to be effective. This costs about 6 ½ cents.
The student also benefits from the fact that WISD has district-level staff that ensures that the checks to her/his teachers are written on time, that all of the schools are fully staffed, and that campuses have access to the support structures they need. This costs about 3 ½ cents.
At the end of the school day, the student rides the bus back home – unless, of course, the student stays to participate in extracurricular activities or attends an after school tutorial. This costs about 3 ½ cents.
All of this adds up to the $1.17 tax rate.
*How did we get here?
For years, the state’s share of school funding declined, forcing local communities to raise property taxes to provide needed funds.
In 2006, the state created the target revenue system funded by a margins tax and reduced local property taxes, shifting more of the burden of funding schools to the state. The margins tax never brought in enough to help the state fulfill its responsibility to schools.
The Legislature has not taken steps to fix this structural problem. The shortfall was obscured by a booming economy one biennium and federal stimulus dollars the next.
This year when money is tight, the State simply underfunded schools by $4 billion in the Foundation School Program and by $1.5 billion in grants.
Although the state had more than $6 billion in the Rainy Day Fund after using $3.2 billion to close the current budget deficit, they chose not to use it for schools.
Additionally, the 2006 target revenue model creates inequities in how the funding is distributed to local districts. In Refugio County, local revenue per Weighted Pupil ranges from about $1.6 million at A-T to $172,000 at Woodsboro.
*This information comes from the TASB publication, School Finance: Now What?