Keller school district to save 113 jobs

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Jun. 28, 2011

By Sandra Engelland

KELLER -- More than 100 employees will keep their jobs for another year as Keller school district officials plan to use $4.8 million in federal money to offset a failed election to raise taxes.

At Monday night's board meeting, trustees said they favored a plan to retain 91 classroom teachers -- including 25 who teach fine arts -- 16 librarians and six middle school academic associates who coordinate testing for the 2011-12 school year to preserve the quality of education as long as possible.

"It follows along with our plan to make cuts as far from the classroom as possible," said Trustee Melody Kohout.

Originally, district officials had said that if the tax ratification election failed, it would trigger a second round of reductions of more than $16 million.

But with the state recently making federal funds available for the coming year, administrators recommended a slower transition in making the cuts.

On June 18, Keller school district voters rejected a 13-cent increase in the tax rate, 56 percent to 44 percent.

The election was the first effort by a Texas school district to raise taxes since the end of the regular legislative session, and the defeat is viewed by many as a sign that other districts in the state will face similar results.

While 113 employees get a temporary reprieve in Keller, 122 others will be terminated over the next few months. Those staff members include high-level administrators, assistant principals, high school counselors, lunchroom monitors and custodians.

Officials will discuss more budget cuts and the use of district savings at the July 21 board meeting.

Administrators estimate the cost of retaining the 113 employees at about $5.5 million. Officials said they will make up the difference of $700,000 with other budget reductions or from district savings.

Officials say one option is to move to a pay-to-ride transportation system.

District officials said they were working with Durham Transportation to provide such a system so students could still have bus service, if their parents choose to pay.

"Most of the calls we've received since the [tax election] failed have been about the buses," said Superintendent James Veitenheimer.

Trustee Cindy Lotton asked administrators to look at how much it would cost to subsidize free- and reduced-lunch students whose families could not afford the transportation fee, estimated to be $130 to $180 per student.

Recent estimates place the reduction of state funds at $13.5 million for 2011-12 and $17.2 million for 2012-13.

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