Staff compensation and balancing the budget were the main discussion points at a Carroll ISD budget workshop, as a proposed 2% pay increase for staff could lead to a deficit of more than $5 million for fiscal year 2021-22.

William Wooten, the district's assistant superintendent for financial services, told trustees at the July 12 meeting that employee compensation will account for 80% of the proposed budget once the pay raise is factored in. Wooten explained that every 1% pay raise is equivalent to roughly $700,000.

Although the board agreed compensation and pay raises were due, some board members had concerns about committing to a compensation increase while having what they described as a large deficit.

“Where are we looking to make adjustments in the operations expenses to be able to give our teachers a much-needed raise this year?” trustee Cameron Bryan said.

Trustee Eric Lannen inquired about vacant positions that are not a priority for the district. The district has 101 full-time, non-teacher positions that are vacant. These positions include counselors, nurses, bus drivers and administrators, per CISD human resources.

“If you don't have these positions filled, and you don't need them, they're not critical and you can cut them out," Lannen said. "Not all of them—if you look at 15% or 20% of them, you might be able to pull a couple million dollars out of the budget. And we'll be a lot closer to a balanced budget than a deficit of $5 million.”

The district's budget for fiscal year 2020-21 incurred a deficit, albeit not as large as previously budgeted for. Wooten said the district is projected to lose between $2.1 million and $2.9 million for fiscal year 2020-21, compared to the $4.4 million deficit initially expected.

According to Wooten, “the deficit is trending on a downward path.”

The deficit for FY 2020-21 is attributed to a loss in revenue—an estimated $3 million was not received from local, state and federal sources—as well as unaccounted expenditures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A decrease in certain expenditures allowed the district to save money, thus reducing the deficit. Vacant and unfilled positions throughout the year allowed CISD to save around $1.7 million in payroll. A decrease in recapture payment by $1.5 million and a savings of $240,000 in general supplies, and $242,000 in food costs also aided in lowering the accruing deficit.

To offset the deficit incurred from FY 2020-21, the district is planning on using the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. CISD qualified for over $1 million. A survey was sent out to the community to gather information on how the funds should be used to address learning loss, which is a required component of the funding.

The board will continue its budget discussions at its July 19 meeting and is expected to approve a final budget at its Aug. 23 meeting.