By BRITTA GAMINO
Pasadena ISD Communications
Because of tight budget oversight in recent years, the Pasadena ISD may be in a better position than some Texas school districts to weather deep funding cuts proposed by state legislators, Superintendent Dr. Kirk Lewis told a gathering of concerned citizens at South Houston High School on Thursday night.
But even with that tight grip on spending, the Pasadena ISD faces the certainty of teacher administrator and support staff layoffs in the coming weeks and the prospect of even deeper cuts if a state funding shortfall proves to be even greater than projected, Dr. Lewis said.
"We've been running on a very lean budget for years," said Dr. Lewis. "One of the only other ways to increase revenue is to raise taxes, which we have not done in four years."
The public forum at South Houston High was the third of five meetings scheduled by the district to discuss pending education cuts and possible solutions.
Dr. Lewis provided an overview of the proposed state cuts, projected to be between $4-5 billion each of the next two years. That projection, Dr. Lewis said, would leave the Pasadena ISD with a $21 million shortfall each year.
Dr. Lewis said he places great importance on the need to keep taxes low at the local level. A higher tax rate can only be adopted by public vote.
Dr. Lewis pointed out alternative means to confront the financial challenge without having to raise taxes. He said the district plans to search for additional grant revenue and could use up to half of the district's fund balance as a way to avoid additional personnel cuts.
If the proposed state cuts go into effect, the public could see an increase in class size at all grades levels and the loss of about 150 teaching positions, Dr. Lewis said. Staffing levels for the central office, maintenance, operations, transportation, police and crossing guards would also face reductions, he said.
A hiring freeze is already in effect across the district. All central office departments, including fine arts and athletics, are cutting five percent from their 2011-2012 budgets. Because of the anticipated shortfall, some renovation projects have been put on hold.
If state cuts result in a funding loss to the Pasadena ISD of more than $21 million a year, the district will be forced to make even more drastic cuts, Dr. Lewis said.
Areas of possible additional cuts could include - but might not be limited to -- swimming, golf and tennis programs, the closing of some smaller elementary schools and a further reduction of staff in areas such as business, human resources, campus aides and campus administration.
Concerned parents voiced their opinions at the forum. Some asked what they could do to assist the district.
"You are all advised to contact your legislators to respectfully inform them that public education needs to be a priority," Dr. Lewis said.
A list of area legislators and contact information can be found on the district's website - www.pasadenaisd.org - by clicking on "District Financial Updates" on the left side of the home page.
Comments and suggestions can be directed to Dr. Lewis at email@example.com.
The last two public forum meetings will be held on Monday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Pasadena High, and Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Dobie High. The public is invited to attend and participate in any or all of these sessions.