According to a Feb. 16 board meeting, the district recorded a budget deficit of $23.7 million during the 2022-23 school year. The deficit is a result of reduced enrollment and inflation along with a lack of new funding from the state since before the pandemic, Superintendent Tabitha Branum said.
Branum said the district is looking at the entire budget to help reduce the deficit.
“As a district, let's find the areas where we can leverage some cost efficient opportunities,” she said. “Instead of having the same budget as the previous year, we can account for every dollar and find areas to capture some cost savings.”
David Pate, assistant superintendent of finance and support services, said the district has already found cost-cutting measures in two areas that have reduced expenditures by $3.5 million. The district eliminated administration positions during the 2022-23 school year that will reduce expenses moving forward by $1.2 million, according to Pate. In addition, a planned streamlining of the district's English as a second language program is expected to provide a cost reduction of $2.3 million.
According to district officials, RISD has five options it can take to increase revenue, including:
- Increase student enrollment through implementation of an open-enrollment option: Pate said adopting an open-enrollment program would allow students residing outside of RISD boundaries to enroll in RISD schools with excess capacity at no cost. Officials said the district has a significant amount of excess capacity at a number of campuses, especially at the elementary school level. Pate said a policy change will be up for adoption during an April 13 board meeting.
- Increase student enrollment by implementing additional methods to attract more families living within district boundaries to RISD: According to district officials, approximately 2,300 students living in RISD boundaries are attending other public schools, either because their parents work for another district or because certain educational programs are not offered.
- Advocate for an increase in state funding for school districts during the current Texas legislative session: According to Branum, the per-student basic allotment that is provided by Texas to school districts has not increased since before the pandemic in 2019. Inflation, operating costs and the cost of competitive teacher and staff salaries have continued to increase over that period, she said.
- Eliminate RISD’s local optional homestead exemption, which is a way that RISD provides property tax relief to homeowners: RISD is one of three school districts in Dallas County to provide a 10% exemption with no districts in Collin County providing it. The removal of the exemption would increase property taxes by $597 per home given an average market value of $453,767, adding an expected $7.8 million in tax revenue to the district.
- Place a tax rate election before RISD voters to increase the maintenance and operations tax rate by $0.0317: RISD’s tax rate is at a 30-year low at $0.9646 per $100 of taxable value, which affects the total revenue for the district.