Hutto school board approves first round of cuts, layoffs and fees
Hutto students will spend less time in art and music lessons, and parent volunteers may fill in to supplement those lessons after school district trustees voted Tuesday night to cut several fine arts positions.
The board also approved quadrupling the student extracurricular activity fee to $100. That amount is up to 40 times higher for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and had paid $12.50 or $2.50 in the past. Those fees will no longer be discounted for students from low-income families, officials said.
Board members also decided to replace two licensed nurses with aides and cut two elementary counselors.
The approvals were the first of many cuts that will have a direct impact on students as the district attempts to close a $1.2 million budget gap for the 2012-13 school year.
"None of these decisions are easy to make," said Doug Gale, board president.
Board members might also decide to charge students $100 per semester to ride the bus, one of the more controversial decisions they are considering.
Because of state funding cuts to public education, for the current school year, district officials let go of 69 workers, including 32 teachers, to save money in the current school year. They made $4.5 million in reductions to balance the current $37 million budget. Veterans Hill Elementary School was closed, and fifth-graders were moved up to middle school to make room at the remaining elementary schools.
The 2012-13 budget is estimated to be between $38.4 million and $38.7 million.
District officials in November asked voters to approve increasing the operations portion of the property tax rate from $1.04 to $1.10 per $100 in assessed value, which would have brought the overall rate, including the amount that goes to debt payment, to $1.60. But voters sank the proposition.Some parents now say they wish they had been better-informed and would vote for a tax rate increase if school officials ask for it in August. District leaders said they are considering asking for a 13-cent increase.
School officials said some of the recent decisions could be reversed if a tax rate increase is approved.
However, other decisions board members made Tuesday would not be restored even with a tax increase, they said. Those include eliminating middle school assistant principal interns, reducing technology spending, reducing professional development and supplies for central office staff and cutting department and campus budgets by 10 percent across the district.