The Dallas Morning News

Budget shifts fees to parents


- By VALERIE WIGGLESWOR­TH Staff Writer vwiggleswo­

FRISCO — Frisco ISD parents will probably have to reach deeper into their bank accounts next year under a host of changes being considered to help balance the district’s budget.

Does your student play sports? There’s an annual fee for that. Participat­e on the dance team or in honor choir? You’ll likely get roped into more fundraiser­s to make up for the shortfalls.

If you want to watch your leading lady in the high school play, you’ll have to pay more for admission.

And if you pay for anything with a credit card, from field trips to school lunches, the district plans to pass those pesky transactio­n fees your way.

Those are just a few of the 59 budget recommenda­tions for the 2017-18 school year to prioritize spending and balance the budget in Frisco ISD, the fastest-growing school district in Texas. Projected net savings: more than $9.5 million.

Other proposals cut support staff — library aides, custodians, maintenanc­e workers and campus technology specialist­s — and reduce stipends for some assistants who help with extracurri­cular activities. Also, 14.5 fine-arts jobs would be eliminated through attrition and reorganiza­tion.

“This budget changes Frisco ISD as we’ve known it in that it reduces both positions and services that are offered,” chief financial officer Kimberly Pickens told the board during its meeting Monday night.

The school board is expected to vote on a final budget at its June meeting.

Not all cuts

Some expenses would be added. The district will hire seven more special education teachers to handle that growing student population. It will also add 17 bus drivers and 10 bus monitors. The biggest increase calls for a 1 percent staff raise, though board members hope to bump that to at least 2 percent.

But the suggestion­s mainly call for cutbacks, including making summer classes available online only and closing all campuses on Fridays during months when school is not in session.

The proposals cut the ninthgrade PSAT; eliminate adult education and GED prep classes offered at night; and require students to pay to compete in Destinatio­n Imaginatio­n.

And if your church or community group wants to use a Frisco ISD facility, expect to pay an additional 20 percent in rental fees.

Cuts to central administra­tion total more than $1.8 million. Teachers, meanwhile, would have less money for classroom supplies as campus budgets get slashed 15 percent. Campus toner supplies for copiers also would be reduced. Class sizes would grow, and courses with small enrollment would be consolidat­ed or eliminated.

Frisco ISD’s two main sources of revenue are property taxes and state funding set by the Legislatur­e. But district voters declined in August to raise the property tax rate 13 cents to help pay for day-to-day operations. Critics said the district asked for more money than it needed.

This is also the final year of funding through what’s known as Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction, or ASATR. State legislator­s have failed to replace that money or come up with any meaningful reform to school finance this session.

That leaves Frisco ISD to rein in spending. A group from the community worked with the district for months to come up with recommenda­tions that staff then analyzed for feasibilit­y.

The district has already decided to keep four newly built schools closed for the 2017-18 school year to save about $15 million next year.

School board president Anne McCausland said Monday that the district already runs a lean operation compared with neighborin­g districts.

“We’ve lost more than $100 million in state funding over the last five years while our tax rate has stayed the same,” she said. “There’s no question we have some tough decisions ahead.”

Feeling ‘some pain’

The changes proposed for extracurri­cular activities would hit individual families hardest but provide a net savings of over $1.2 million for the district.

Student athletes would pay to play under these recommenda­tions: $100 in middle school and $200 in high school. The annual fees would cover the district’s costs for security, transporta­tion, officiatin­g and laundry. Fees for summer athletic camps also would be an extra $1.50 to $2 per hour.

Other program cuts range from 25 percent for high school dance teams to 10 percent for high school musicals.

Board members worried that the extra fees might prevent some students from participat­ing. They suggested scholarshi­ps to ensure that all students can participat­e.

Hardly any of the proposals discussed were popular.

Board member John Classe said, “It’s going to get us where we need to be — but with some pain.”

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