Keller district to cut teachers, programs after tax election failed
After the failure of a bid to raise taxes in the Keller school district, administrators plan to cut about 240 employees and a number of programs and extracurricular activities to cope with state budget cuts.
"Things will be significantly different to be sure, and we will all feel the effects in one way or another," Superintendent James Veitenheimer wrote Monday to employees. In all, about $16 million in cuts have to be made, officials said.
In his letter, Veitenheimer said that while he does not agree with the majority, "we now have a clear idea of our community's expectations for our district."
"The challenge ahead of this district is a daunting one, and as we move into a new century of our district's history, there will certainly be much to discuss and do in the coming months," he wrote.
However, Veitenheimer wrote that the district will work to make "the new normal" the best it can be.
The school board will discuss timing and deployment of the budget cuts at its June 27 meeting, spokesman Bryce Nieman said. Administrators have begun to identify various categories for the layoffs, and that plan is expected to go before the board at its July 21 meeting.
On Saturday, about 56 percent of voters rejected a 13-cent increase in the property tax rate. More than 14,000 people voted.
KISD Families for Fiscal Responsibility had campaigned against the increase, calling it fiscally irresponsible.
It's clear that voters want the cheapest education possible, said Larry West of the United Educators Association.
"We may just have gone from Walmart to the Dollar Store" in terms of education, West said.
In December, the district was named one of the best in the state for cost-effective academic success. Keller was among 43 of 1,235 districts and charter schools statewide that earned a five-star rating in the Financial Allocation Study for Texas, which looked at which districts are making the most student gains while spending the least.
This spring, the school board cut $16 million and 200 jobs to deal with a local deficit, but $16 million more in cuts are needed to cover an expected deficit of about $31 million a year for the next two years.
The new cuts will include eliminating 34 fine-arts teachers from elementary to high school.
The district will also increase class sizes.
In the new budget talks, the school board could discuss whether to draw more money from the fund balance to buffer the cuts. Earlier this year, the board was told it had about $10 million more in the fund balance than the state recommended. In the first round of cuts, trustees said they intended to use about $6 million from the district savings.
The district had asked voters to raise taxes to avoid the further cuts. The 13-cent increase would have raised the maximum tax rate for maintenance and operations to $1.17 per $100 of assessed property value. The additional 13 cents would have cost taxpayers with a $200,000 home an added $260 a year. With the defeat, the daily operating rate will remain $1.04.