BISD trustees

CLUTE — Brazosport ISD is looking seriously at making staffing cuts over the next few years because of fewer students and less money coming into the district.

“We are reducing staff positions that were funded through federal ESSER grants because the grant money is ending,” Superintendent Danny Massey said, referring to money provided by federal COVID relief programs. “Campuses are staffed according to student enrollment. Declining enrollment means fewer staff.”

The potential for job reductions came during preliminary discussions about the 2023-24 budget during Monday night’s board meeting.

Trustees adopted the current budget with a $10.4 million deficit after ending the prior year with an $11 million surplus, Brazosport ISD Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Kelley said.

After capital improvement projects were completed, it left the district with a surplus of $1.8 million starting the new school year.

One of the district’s goals is to exercise fiscal responsibility to ensure the financial strength and secure the resources to equip and maintain quality facilities and educational programming, Kelley said.

However, the district is projected to have an even higher deficit of $11.2 million next fiscal year if it continues on its current path, she said.

“We obviously cannot sustain an $11.2 million deficit moving forward, so we will need to make some reductions to spending,” Kelley said.

It all comes down to attendance numbers, which are being affected by families having difficulty finding places to live, Massey said.

“Our enrollment has declined due to lack of available housing especially in Freeport,” he said.

Communities served by the district, including Lake Jackson and Clute, have limited space remaining on which to build, making new housing development to attract residents a problem.

Total enrollment in 2020-21 was 12,364 and it fell to 11,404 last year, a 960 decrease. This results in at least a $6 million decrease in state revenue, which is based on average daily attendance, Kelley said.

The number of teaching positions began to increase in 2014, rising from 755 to 835 this last year. That is an increase in expenditures of $5.2 million.

“We have strategically created targets over multiple years to balance the budget through attrition and to ensure we remain in a strong financial position,” Kelley said. “While enrollment and ADA are both up for 2022, based on current law we can no longer sustain current staffing levels and we’ll need to make adjustments to staffing levels based on current enrollment and to balance the current deficit budget.”

The district will take several steps to balance the budget in the future, including relying on early retirement, keeping vacancies open and evaluating the 150 positions funded through ESSER funds. The district needs to find a way to reduce spending by $6 million and allocate an additional $3 million to cover expected compensation increases to get the budget closer to balanced by the 2025-26 school year, she said.

The student-to-teacher ratio in the district is the third-lowest in the state at 13.6 percent. This low ratio has huge educational advantages but is expensive; however, protecting the ratio is a priority, Kelley said.

“We are currently tracking school finance-related bills in the legislative session and will continue to advocate for increases and continue to advocate for the basic allotment for inflation, changes to the outdated special education weighted population, funding for the safety and security initiatives and our ability to locally retain revenues to locally negotiate from the 313 agreements,” she said.

The district’s process for budgeting the 2023-24 fiscal year will include surveys and workshops to be conducted starting in February.

A budget will be presented for approval in April, Kelley said.

Gayla Murphy is assisting managing editor for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0155.

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