Q&A: Cy-Fair ISD chief financial officer Stuart Snow talks revenue challenges, misconceptions

Image description
Education Focus 2018: Stuart Snow
Image description
Education Focus 2018: Stuart Snow

Stuart Snow has served as the chief financial officer of Cy-Fair ISD for more than 10 years. In this role, Snow is responsible for all financial and fiscal matters of the district—including budgeting, financial accounting and reporting, bond sales to finance capital projects, payroll and employee benefits, property insurance, risk management, cash management and working with a legislative delegation regarding school finance issues. He also oversees districtwide technology—including network infrastructure, the email system, the telephone system and wireless connectivity—to more than 100 district facilities.

What are some financial challenges CFISD faces as one of the largest districts in the state? 

Our greatest financial challenges are to provide the necessary financial resources for a $1.6 billion organization while our student enrollment continues to increase each year, maintaining competitive teacher salary levels as well as responding to the increasing societal demands and expectations—all while our operating revenue continues to decline.

Why does the state keep decreasing its annual contribution to the district? 

Our operating revenue from the state of Texas has declined from 50 percent of total revenue to 37 percent within the past four years due to the antiquated and dysfunctional structure of the school finance system and a diminishing priority for funding public schools by our state legislators. This places a greater burden on our taxpayers to fund public education. Since 2014-15, state revenue has declined over $80 million while tax revenue has increased $99 million for a net total revenue increase of $19 million over four years. State revenue has declined $823 per student while tax revenue increased only $700, resulting in a net revenue loss of $123 per student in the same period. Clearly, the state Legislature is not funding student enrollment growth.

What are your predictions regarding school finance in the upcoming legislative session?

I really do not anticipate any meaningful changes until the legislative body restructures the system of school finance, determines the true cost to educate a Texas public school student and funds public schools to that appropriate level. I believe the primary focus will be on school safety and security. I hope the state will provide the funding necessary to implement any safety and security measures that come out of the session.

The district approved a deficit budget for 2018-19. If the district received more funding, what would be the first areas to benefit? 

Although the district approved a deficit budget of $12.6 million for 2018-19, that amount is [a result] of $21.7 million of reductions in the 2017-18 budget achieved through administrative department cuts, elimination of unfilled positions and various renegotiated contracts. If the district were to receive additional funding, we would certainly look to providing additional resources for school safety and security and to support those campuses and programs with large populations of economically disadvantaged students.

What are some best practices the district implements to make the most of taxpayer dollars? 

These include evaluating the cost/benefit of programs to ensure they are meeting our expected outcomes at the expected cost; utilizing a pilot system for new and innovative programs that allows us to evaluate efficiency; providing the same curriculum written by CFISD at all 91 campuses; a centralized food production center; transferring teachers from over-staffed campuses to under-staffed ones; and implementing an educator attendance incentive award program that saves millions of dollars in substitute costs.

What is the biggest misconception about how the school finance system works?

The biggest misconception is that for district operations, the district [benefits] from property value increases. Any tax revenue generated from property value increases is offset by a dollar-for-dollar reduction in state funding. The Legislature continues to fund public education inadequately. A report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that Texas ranks 46th out of the 50 states in funding per student from state sources.

By Danica Smithwick
Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a Cy-Fair reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She became editor of the Cy-Fair edition in March 2020 and continues to cover education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development and nonprofits.


Ivy Point Cypress, a resort-style community on Mueschke Road for individuals age 55 and older, will be ready for move-ins July 1, officials said. (Courtesy Ivy Point Cypress)
DEVELOPMENT UPDATES: Three Cy-Fair area multifamily projects slated to open this summer

Multifamily projects in the Cy-Fair area are moving forward through the coronavirus pandemic, with several projects slated for completion this summer.

Demonstrators gathered at the Texas Capitol on May 31 to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Protests throughout Houston and more: Popular stories from this week

Read the latest news from the Greater Houston area on Community Impact Newspaper’s website.

Raveneaux Country Club was one of thousands of properties that flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. (Courtesy Harris County Flood Control District)
Houston Office of Emergency Management shares hurricane prep tips as Gulf storm nears landfall

With a storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico and expected to make landfall in Louisiana by Sunday and with a global pandemic still spreading, officials and residents are changing how they prepare for a more active hurricane season.

SNAP, a federal program overseen in Texas by the HHSC, assists around 1.4 million eligible low-income individuals and families statewide. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Emergency SNAP food benefits extended in Texas during COVID-19 pandemic

SNAP assists around 1.4 million eligible low-income individuals and families in Texas.

As of June 4, 14 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed and 56 residents and staff are being monitored at the center. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: Outbreak reported at Humble rehab facility

As of June 4, 14 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed and 56 residents and staff are being monitored at the center.

CMS also unveiled an interactive map that lets users search any nursing home in the U.S. to see its COVID-19 cases. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
CMS reports 321 coronavirus deaths in Texas nursing homes, nearly 32,000 nationwide

CMS also unveiled an interactive map that lets users search any nursing home in the U.S. to its COVID-19 cases.

The Transportation and Global Logistics Technology Center opened June 1, with a grand opening ceremony held via video conference on June 4. (Courtesy Lone Star College System)
Lone Star College System announces Transportation and Global Logistics Technology Center opening

The Lone Star College Transportation and Global Logistics Technology Center officially opened June 1.

While the Texas Supreme Court's 15th Emergency Order issued May 14 allowed residential eviction proceedings to resume statewide beginning May 19 following a two-month hiatus, the order does not require those proceedings to resume. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Hidalgo, Turner request eviction moratorium be extended through Aug. 24

In hopes of avoiding a new wave of homelessness plaguing Harris County, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo have requested all justices of the peace countywide to postpone eviction hearings until late August.

An Aztec-inspired Mexican restaurant and a Peruvian-Mexican hybrid restaurant are among the tenants to lease space at the center. (Courtesy Mexpozole Restaurant)
Mexpozole opens; Pollo Bravo Express coming soon at new shopping center at FM 529, Fry Road

An Aztec-inspired Mexican restaurant and a Peruvian-Mexican hybrid restaurant are among the tenants to lease space at the center.

John Ogletree is a member of the Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees and the senior pastor of First Metropolitan Church in Cy-Fair. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair pastor John Ogletree: George Floyd’s death a ‘watershed moment’ for America

Hear from Cy-Fair pastor and CFISD board member John Ogletree about his experience honoring George Floyd and what the recent protests mean to him.

Star Cinema Grill has several locations throughout the Houston area. (Courtesy Star Cinema Grill)
Houston-based Star Cinema Grill prepares to reopen all locations

The Houston-based theater chain plans to open all locations by mid-July.

Gary Marler, owner of Brew:30 Taphouse in Cypress, sanitizes a bingo card in preparation for bingo night the taphouse will host June 4. Brew:30 is one of several Cy-Fair bars that reopened in late May under new social distancing guidelines intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
After lockdown on bars lifted, Cypress taphouse works to forge way forward

Owners with Brew:30 Taphouse said new restrictions on bars have caused challenges, but they are exploring ways to serve customers and keep business coming in.