By Lindsay Kastner
Published: 12:00 a.m., Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Trustees of the San Antonio Independent School District discussed a slew of budget-cutting measures Tuesday night brought on largely by the anticipated $27 billion state budget gap.
The meeting included the first round of probably several attempts to slash spending, as the district plans for a revenue loss of between $37 million and $61 million in the coming fiscal year.
“Even getting to the bottom of that is going to be excruciating for our district,” Associate Superintendent for Financial Services Steve Bassett said.
Trustees discussed at length an incentive for employees who give early notice of their plans to retire or resign from the district, but ultimately delayed action on the concept until Jan. 27.
The idea is intended to help the district plan for turnover. That could be more important than ever this year, because another plan to eliminate roughly 145 curriculum department jobs means the district could be scrambling to find in-house teaching vacancies for those employees.
She said the district isn't trying to encourage staff to leave but wants employees who are already planning to quit their jobs to give notice sooner than they otherwise might.
“We're strategically trying to put money in places where it's going to allow us to keep our employees,” Superintendent Robert Durón said.
Also Tuesday night, the trustees were scheduled to discuss proposals to explore options for outsourcing district services and reorganizing the district's curriculum and instruction department, including the elimination of 120 curriculum instructional coordinators and 25 teacher specialists and the creation of 40 instruction coaches, intended to support teachers and replace some of the functions of the eliminated positions. Both of those items were also tabled.
“Don't subject our students to risky schemes such as privatization,” said Potter, who suggested the district gather ideas for savings from school staff instead. She described a cafeteria worker who donates school uniforms to students in need and another who buys desserts for kids who earn good grades.
“You will not get that from a private company,” she said.
Trustees also heard from the Southwest Workers Union, which showed up with banners and posters to protest outsourcing and a proposal to work with a consultant to find energy savings.
Trustees had planned to discuss a proposed agreement with Energy Education Inc. during closed session Tuesday. The company would help the district reduce its energy costs in exchange for a portion of any savings realized, but Chavel Lopez, an organizer with the union, said district high school students have the skills to help identify best practices for energy use without taking a cut of the savings.
Also Tuesday night, trustees approved the purchase and installation of playground equipment for 45 schools, the first project of the 2010 bond issue.
The playgrounds will cost the district about $2.9 million, not including money set aside for contingency costs.
Board members also appointed a citizens committee to oversee bond projects. The 24 members — nominated by trustees and the superintendent — will serve staggered terms as they monitor the progress of the $515 million bond program and make recommendations to the board.
An organizational meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 2.