No challenge too great
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Our Humble ISD theme this year is “No challenge is too great for us.” Little did I know how appropriate this would be for us, what with Hurricane Ike hitting the Gulf Coast soon after school opened and now a tax rollback election coming up in a few days. I am thankful that our schools escaped serious damage, and as you may already know, we broke attendance records when school resumed after Ike. It was as if the community gave a collective sigh of relief that life truly was getting back to normal when our schools re-opened. It also appears that our community and employees give every indication of understanding the need for a tax rollback election given the financial crisis brought on by the Texas Legislature when it adopted a finance system (House Bill 1) that froze school funding at 2005-06 levels. House Bill 1 has: • Frozen funding at level school districts received in 2005-06 • Frozen inequitable differences in Weighted Average Daily Attendance funding from one school district to the next. • Ignored the fact that costs for fuel, utilities, employee salaries, insurance etc., continue to rise • Provides no inflation factor for operating revenue • Established a system where the state takes away a dollar of state aid for every local school tax dollar gained from increased property valuations and new property on the tax roll Add to that, the knowledge that the state’s transportation allotment has not increased since 1984 when gas was $1.13 per gallon, and you have the makings of a financial crisis for schools across the state. By the end of this fall, more than 200 school districts will have had tax rollback elections. That’s with only two years of House Bill. This tax rollback election allows voters to decide whether or not to increase the Maintenance and Operations tax rate by 13 cents to $1.17, giving Humble ISD a total tax rate of $1.52. Our total tax rate in 2005 was $1.77. Approval means that Humble ISD will not need to make reductions beyond the $9 million already cut for this school year. Voter approval means that Humble ISD will receive approximately $17 million needed to balance the budget this year. Since about 87 percent of the school district’s budget is personnel, these funds would be used for salaries and to keep existing programs in place. If the election fails, $17 million more must be cut. So what could $17 million more in cuts include if the election fails? • Eliminate all high school sophomore athletic teams • Remove athletics from the school day • Reduce middle and high school visual and performing arts courses and extracurricular activities • Eliminate elementary art • Reduce elementary counselors, librarians and nurses • Reduce instructional coaches • Secondary teaching schedules move to six of seven rather than five of seven • Reduce central support and administrative staff. One question that often comes up is why we identified possible cuts before rather than after the tax rollback election if it should fail. I believe that it is only fair for all to know what is at stake so that voters can make an informed decision. For more information, visit humble.k12.tx.us. Early voting begins Nov. 5. Election day is Nov. 22.