Dripping Springs ISD officials adopted an operating budget of $100.39 million with a shortfall of $2.77 million for fiscal year 2024-25.

The board approved the budget at a regular meeting June 24, after an almost six-month-long process of district staff running numbers. Per board policy, the district can’t adopt a shortfall exceeding revenues by over 2%, so reductions were made.

Breaking it down

The budget for FY 2024-25 was drafted under the following assumptions that impact funding:
  • A student enrollment of 8,900 with an average daily attendance rate of 95.25%
  • A property value growth of 5.11%—this percentage normally averages closer to 10%
  • A proposed tax rate of $1.1052 per $100 valuation
DSISD will lose about $9.46 million to recapture—when the state collects property tax revenue from districts—which is budgeted for within the $100.39 million general fund.

From the general fund—excluding recapture—84% will go toward the payroll of almost 1,100 employees, and 16% will be used for classroom supplies, utilities, professional development, transportation, safety and travel.

The board also adopted a debt service fund of $40.19 million and a child nutrition fund of $4.83 million June 24.

What it means

The budget includes a 1% pay increase for staff. To provide this, officials made changes, some of these including:
  • Increases in pre-K; and second, third and fourth grade class sizes
  • The freeze of some central office, HVAC, maintenance and custodial positions that were vacant or not rehiring
  • Utilization of the fund balance toward utilities for a year at $774,940
  • A $620,000 reduction in department and campus operating costs
DSISD Chief Financial Officer Gina Mitschke said a pay increase higher than 1% would have resulted in further reductions.

“This is going to be a really tight budget,” Mitschke said.

How we got here

DSISD officials are pointing to constraints in funding as the basic student allotment—the amount districts receive from the state based on enrollment and attendance—remains stagnant since 2019 despite inflation.

“That's five years that we have not had any increase in funding for students,” Mitschke said.

Additionally, Senate Bill 2, passed during the 88th legislative session, has caused tax collections for districts to decrease as homeowners receive a $100,000 tax exemption. However, Mitschke noted the district’s recapture payment has also decreased due to SB 2, down 71.73% from FY 2023-24.

Enrollment from the 2023-24 school year to the 2024-25 school year is projected to increase by 4.24%. This is not a large enough increase to greatly impact the district’s state funding, officials said.

“Our challenge right now is, yes, we are growing, but we are not growing at the same pace that we have been in the past,” DSISD Deputy Superintendent Elaine Cogburn said.

However, board member Kim Cousins said attendance is something that is “within” the district’s “control.” At the same meeting, new attendance-taking times were approved for the 2024-25 school year as the following:
  • 8:45 a.m. for elementary schools
  • 9:45 a.m. for middle schools
  • 10:50 a.m. for high school
“Our funding is tied to student attendance every day and the time of day that attendance is taken,” Cousins said. “That's in our control, and that's money that we get that nobody can take away.”

Zooming out

DSISD is not alone in facing budget constraints.

About 43% of Texas school districts anticipate making cuts this upcoming fiscal year, according to a survey conducted by the Texas Association of School Business Officials. Neighboring district Austin ISD took on a shortfall of $41.25 million, which will worsen if a voter-approval tax rate election, or VATRE—when district officials ask the community to approve a tax rate increase—fails.

“There are districts in the state of Texas that are closing public schools; they can no longer afford to keep them open,” Cousins said. “We're not cutting programs, [and] we're getting a 1% [staff pay] increase.”

Going forward

The board will adopt a tax rate for FY 2024-25 in either August or September. The rate is proposed at $1.1052 per $100 valuation, a slight decrease from FY 2023-24 at $1.1075 per $100 valuation.

The board can adopt a lower tax rate than proposed but would need to hold another public hearing to increase the tax rate.

“Other districts have been forced or [are] having conversations about ... increasing the tax rate,” board member Rob McClelland said. “Fortunately that's not a conversation we're having.”

The FY 2024-25 budget is effective July 1. For more information, visit www.dsisdtx.us.