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South San Avoids Layoffs, Gives Raises Despite Budget Shortfall

Carillo Elementary, Aug. 23, 2018
Camille Phillips
Texas Public Radio
Carillo Elementary was slated to lose its music teacher during Wednesday night's budget meeting, but South San trustees voted against layoffs.

Updated at 4:50 p.m.

The board for the South San Antonio Independent School District approved the district’s 2018-2019 budget Wednesday night without filling a roughly $3 million deficit.

Trustees also voted to give staff a slight raise.

District administrators had suggested reducing the deficit by cutting 15 positions, including five teachers and a nurse, and significantly cutting funding to the counseling and social work program Communities in Schools.

Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra said after the board meeting that positions may still be eliminated as long as no one loses their job.

“For example, I believe we had five teacher aides that were subject to be cut. Well we have more than five openings in other areas … so most likely those people will be moved to open positions,” Saavedra said.

Trustee Edward Mungia introduced the amendment to set aside $300,000 for Communities in Schools, saying it was highly effective.

“So many college bound students have said that this program is the only reason why they are going to college. This program has changed familial attitudes on post-secondary education from an unattainable future to a feasible reality,” Mungia said.

The board unanimously approved his suggestion to fund Communities in Schools, and board president Angela Osteguin’s proposal to give all employees a one time 1 percent raise, plus an additional 1 percent salary increase and a step up the pay scale for teachers. Osteguin said she wished the property tax rate increase would have gone through so the board could have given a bigger raise, but she couldn’t see not giving a raise at all.

“Over the course of this year, I agree with Miss Osteguin, we will be asking our teachers to do more with less resources and support … and we recognize it’s not sufficient and we hope that we can do more in the future,” trustee Elda Flores said.

The board also approved a hiring freeze subject to the superintendent’s discretion, which Saavedra said will help South San replace the roughly $3 million it will have to take out of its reserves to balance the budget.

“I also believe that because of conservative budgeting and conservative projections that we will be able to make up that deficit of $3 million by next August when we close out the fiscal year,” Saavedra said.

Based on enrollment during the first few days of the school year, the superintendent said the district might have overestimated its enrollment loss this year, projecting 500 when it could be closer to 250. If that’s the case, Saavedra said South San could gain about $1.8 million in revenue for the year.

Still, Saavedra is recommending the board try to raise property taxes again in order to ensure the long-term financial health of the district.

Original story

The board for the South San Antonio Independent School District is meeting Wednesday to decide how to fill a $3.2 million budget shortfall.

District officials have proposed cutting 15 professional positions, including five teachers, five aides and a nurse.

Their plan also calls for cuts to the counseling and social work program Community in Schools and a districtwide 10 percent reduction in expenses.

The district had also considered eliminating an after-school program, but is in arrangements with SA Youth to provide a grant-funded alternative.

If the board approves the proposal, the 2018-2019 budget would total about $73 million, with $1.4 million coming out of the district’s version of a saving account, known as a fund balance.

South San hoped to fill the budget deficit by raising property taxes, but voters rejected the measure last week.

The district originally had a $6.4 million deficit, but cut it in half over the summer by trimming about 42 positions, according to Saavedra.

South San is grappling with a decline in state funding caused by a 10 percent drop in enrollment over the past five years.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille

CORRECTION: The total number of positions trimmed this summer has been updated. According to Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, that total is 42. ... Also, board president Angela Osteguin’s proposal was updated to say all employees will receive a one time 1 percent raise, plus an additional 1 percent salary increase and a step up the pay scale for teachers.