Hays CISD is set to head into fiscal year 2024-25 with a $342 million budget that includes a 1% salary increase for teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors as well as a $6.2 million shortfall.

The HCISD board of trustees adopted the budget in a 6-0 vote June 24. Trustee Geoff Seibel was not present for the meeting.

The breakdown

Chief Financial Officer Randy Rau said some of the assumptions that went into creating the $342 million budget include:
  • Student growth: 24,619 students are expected for the 2024-25 school year with a 93% attendance rate.
  • Property values: Values have increased about 10.5% over FY 2023-24.
  • Tax rate: The Texas Education Agency will calculate the tax rate by Aug. 1, but the maintenance and operations tax rate of $0.6692 is expected to be compressed due to the increase in property values.
  • Salary increases and employee benefits: A 1% salary increase will be given to teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors, and the district will maintain a no-cost employee health benefit plan by increasing its contribution by $50 a month per employee.
The district is also looking at a $6.2 million shortfall, which the board previously discussed at its June 6 meeting.

“Our basic allotment is $6,160 [per student],” Rau said. “It has not changed or increased since 2019 when it went into effect under House Bill 3. We’ve had double-digit inflation over that time period, but we’ve remained stagnant on basic allotment, which is the core amount that goes into our funding.”

How we got here

Rau said when the FY 2024-25 budget process was first starting, the district was looking at a shortfall closer to $15 million-$16 million.

Despite the $6.2 million shortfall, no layoffs will occur, but Rau said the district is supplementing this budget with its fund balance, which has “also been declining over the past few years” because of the stagnation in state funding.

“We’ve had to unfortunately look at doing some cost reductions, which [a] 1% raise—even though it’s a raise—it's somewhat less than what we’ve done in the past,” Rau said. “We’ve had to do some repurposing of some positions. We’ve had to adjust some staff ratios, and we’ve had to do some reassignments at the campus and district administration just to get it down to this amount.”

The other side

While there will be no layoffs in the district, Fuentes Elementary will lose its fine arts coordinator and theater teacher in the 2024-25 school year. Staff in these positions were offered other jobs in the district, Chief Communication Officer Tim Savoy said.

“Several years ago, the board voted unanimously to designate Fuentes as a fine arts-focused campus based on the research and feedback from a committee who took tours of other fine arts magnet schools in Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD,” community member Katy Armstrong said. “... To now have one of the key fine arts programs pulled from the school feels rather confusing.”

Superintendent Eric Wright said the idea to make Fuentes a fine arts-focused campus spurred in 2018 as a way to keep students from leaving to attend charter schools and other magnet schools, and increase student achievement. However, a declining number of students and lowered academic scores led to the changes.

Wright said there were 24 student transfers to the program following its inception in the 2018-19 school year, but that number started dwindling in 2020-21. By the 2023-24 school year, only six students transferred.

Wright added, based on its most recent data, Fuentes' academic score has been decreasing over the last couple years and is scheduled to be a “D” this year.

“We need every single person in this district reaching out to their legislators and telling them that they need to fund public education, that they are affecting our children," trustee Courtney Runkle said. "... We have [from] now until January [when the 89th Texas Legislature begins] to get them to do their jobs and to fund public education. We don't like making these decisions. We don't like taking things away. We will certainly put things back if it shows that we can and the data supports it.”