At the June 14 meeting of the La Porte ISD Board of Trustees, the Board approved the budget for the 2011-12 school year.
Lloyd W. Graham, superintendent, and Rhonda Cumbie, chief financial officer, began with a presentation on the proposed budget, which was followed by a public hearing. A summary of the presentation is available on the LPISD web site,
, in the "News and Spotlights" section.
Included in the approval was the adoption of a total tax rate of $1.355 per $100 valuation, which includes $1.04 in Maintenance and Operations and $.315 in debt service. The increase of three cents on the debt service side is well below the maximum of .3675 cents that was promised to voters during the 2005 bond election, Graham explained.
Two situations can drive up the debt rate-a significant decline in tax base or a significant decline in tax collections-and LPISD has been experiencing a decreasing tax base for the last three years, Graham said.
LPISD's estimated taxable value for 2011, based on figures from the Harris County Appraisal District, shows a decrease of 2.8 percent, or $5.6 million. However, the district expects that the decrease will level off as a local industry project is completed in 2012.
In addition to promising voters that the debt rate would not exceed $.3675, Graham said that the district also assured the public that there would be a weighted average maturity of no more than 20.253 years on the bonds and that LPISD would spend no more than $161 million in interest.
"We were aggressive in the way that we sold and managed our bonds, so our weighted average maturity will be 14 years rather than 20, and our interest savings is almost $10 million with this bond structure," Graham said. "In addition, we were able to deliver an additional $32 million in construction not included in the original bond issue, we re-funded our existing bond debt and saved another $1.4 million in interest, and we reduced the weighted average maturity on existing bond debt by a year."
At press time, the Texas Legislature continues in special session. Graham said that while he has not yet seen the state budget, he anticipates that the reduction in state funding for La Porte ISD will be somewhere around $8.8 million over the biennium.
"While we expect that we will realize 35 percent of this loss next year and the remaining 65 percent the following year, we are planning for a $4.4 million reduction this year and an equal reduction the following year," he said. "As you know, we assured our staff that if they were otherwise employed by LPISD this year, they would be employed with us during the 2011-2012 school year. By planning now for the inevitability of increase in loss next year, we have structured our budget so that we feel that there will be no need for sweeping reductions in force for the 2012-2013. I hope that our LPISD family is comforted by that assurance.
The district will continue to fill positions through attrition when possible as a way of reducing district costs. This year, LPISD downsized by 82 employees, with many of those taking advantage of the district's early exit incentive program.
Graham sees the decrease in staff as a cost "reduction" but not a "savings.
"The employees that are not being replaced are real people who had real jobs that provided real value to our school district and to our children," he said. "Absorbing the costs from the state that are being passed on to us means a reduction in services and an increase in workload to those who are left."