Judson trustees shelve job cuts, hiring freeze

San Antonio Express-News
June 8, 2011

Judson ISD trustees decided Tuesday night at a special meeting to postpone cutting more positions or putting a hiring freeze in place.

Those items will be picked up again during the board’s next scheduled meeting June 16.

The district, like most others in the area, is under increasing financial pressure because of shrinking state funding and is forced to try to anticipate how much it will have to cut from its budget.

Trustees in April eliminated 275 positions, 186 of which were probationary or vacant teaching, coaching and counseling jobs, generating $14 million in savings.

But trustees said that at the next meeting they will consider rehiring 59 probationary teachers laid off in April, though trustees also will debate cutting an additional $3.7 million from its budget.

These savings will be at the expense of 76 positions and various curriculum changes including the possible cut of several bus routes.

Area school boards already have cut 2,459 jobs in the past several months.

Chief Financial Officer Jose Elizondo said cuts will have to be made to make the district solvent.

The district is expected to have roughly $33 million left at the end 2011-12 fiscal year, but Judson ISD needs $12 million a month just to cover operational costs, he said. Trustees therefore, cannot dip into reserves to mitigate any budget shortfalls, Elizondo said.

“There is just no way you can operate in that kind of situation,” Elizondo said, adding, “We don’t know what is going to happen in the next five years.”

Elizondo said Judson ISD could face even worse budget projections if the economy continues to stagnate.

But in the near future, district officials must come up with $15.5 million more in savings in the next two years, and that is only an estimate. Before classes start again in August, Judson ISD will have to fill an anticipated $9 million hole.

But officials are anticipating the worst and have budgeted more than $11.5 million in cuts. When the Legislature finally settles on its official budget reductions, Elizondo said Judson ISD may find itself with extra cash to rehire laid-off teachers.

“Part of the variable here, is what will Austin do?” said board President Jose Macias.

“We will scrutinize to the hilt because we want to make the best decision,” Macias said. “So there is no crime in taking a motion to the following week and thinking about it.”

During the special session, the Legislature may come up with new budget reductions, forcing all Texas school districts back to the drawing board.

“It really puts us in a predicament,” Macias said. “Can you see the detriment? We can’t even finalize a decision because we don’t know where we are. I don’t think Austin gets this. I say it all day. They don’t get the dilemma they put districts in.”

Trustees also decided Tuesday night to table until next week whether to broadcast their meetings.

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