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Education

Judson Approves New School Staffing Model To Reduce Deficit

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The Judson Independent School District has adopted a new staffing model to help cut its budget. Trustees approved a plan Tuesday evening that reduces the number of librarians and registered nurses assigned to each campus.

As staff leave through attrition, some librarians and RNs will be replaced by library aides and licensed vocational nurses. Eventually, five elementary and middle school campuses will share one RN, and librarians will split their time between two elementary schools. Judson also plans to reduce the number of teachers and assistant principals.

District officials said they needed to reduce salary expenses in order to help offset a $12 million deficit this year and a projected $18 million deficit next year.

“This is not forever. But please remember: no one is leaving unless of their own accord they want to leave,” said board vice-president Renée Paschall before the vote. “It’s not the best. It’s not what we all want. We’re where you are. It’s just that we’re the one that has to make the decision.”

Originally, administrators recommended a ratio of five to one for librarians, and for counselors to split their time between two elementary schools for a caseload of up to 900 students. But after presenting their ideas to the board Feb. 9, district staff decided to keep current counseling levels and reduce the librarian ratio to two to one at the elementary and middle school campus.

“It is our job as administrators to present something to the board that will help us stay financially sound,” Judson Superintendent Jeanette Ball told trustees. “I am in no way saying that we love these ideas, but we do believe that we can continue to get the work done with these proposals.”

Up until 2015, Judson was growing. But over the past four years, the district has lost around 650 students, and its current enrollment stands at 22,653.

At the Feb. 9 budget workshop, Bill Atkins, Judson’s chief financial officer, told trustees that the district expects to see that trend continue next year due to increased competition with charter schools.

“The last four years we have averaged a one percent decline (in average daily attendance) each year. I don’t see that stopping,” Atkins said. “I know that we’ve been adding houses, but we’re still losing kids.”

Atkins said Tuesday the new staffing model would save the district around $7 million once it’s fully in place.

“We’re hoping that with our normal attrition we’d get about half next year,” Atkins said.

Trustees said the staffing model will only be in place as long as it’s needed to keep the district in good financial shape. They said they’re hopeful state lawmakers will provide more funding this legislative session.

The board is also considering asking voters to approve a 13 cent increase on their property tax rate for operating expenses. At the same time, Judson would reduce the tax rate for facilities by 13 cents, allowing taxpayers to avoid a tax rate increase.

The state calculates the school funding formula through the operating expenses tax rate, and district staff estimate the rate increase would give the district an additional $6 million in revenue.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.