Cy-Fair ISD officials are anticipating a $77.5 million shortfall in the $1.16 billion fiscal year 2024-25 budget, which the board of trustees unanimously approved June 17. Chief Financial Officer Karen Smith said the district will use reserves to fill the remaining gap.

Budget discussions have been ongoing since Superintendent Doug Killian joined the district in January, and leadership was tasked with shrinking the original $138 million shortfall.

While plans do not include layoffs, the administration cut more than 600 positions and reassigned many employees to other roles for next school year.

The details

CFISD officials said this shortfall was not a surprise as pandemic-era federal stimulus funding will be depleted by the end of June. The district has received about $291.3 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funding since 2019-20.

Inflation and a decrease in student attendance rates, among other factors, have impacted CFISD’s budget. And despite the district’s advocacy efforts during the 88th Texas Legislature in 2023, state lawmakers didn’t increase public school funding.

Adding to the shortfall is an additional $17 million that CFISD will invest in raising the starting teacher salary from $62,000 to $63,000 and on across-the-board raises in 2024-25, according to previous Community Impact reporting. Teachers, paraprofessionals and hourly staff will see 2% raises, and administrators will receive a 1% pay raise. All employees received a 3% raise in 2023-24.

Tanzanyika Williams, president of the Cy-Fair chapter of the Texas State Teachers Association, advocated for a “well-deserved” pay increase for district educators. She said recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers will help improve student outcomes and success as teacher turnover brings “instability and disruption” to campuses.

Position cuts included 278 classroom teachers, 50 librarians, 13 campus administrations and dozens of other roles.

In addition to staffing reductions, the board approved bus service cuts to save $4.72 million in transportation services. This includes:
  • Not serving elementary students within 1 mile of campus or middle or high school students within 2 miles of campus unless they live on routes with hazardous traffic conditions
  • Eliminating late bus runs
  • Eliminating service to alternative learning centers
Two parents at the June 17 meeting expressed concerns about increased vehicular traffic, potentially dangerous walking and biking conditions for students and a lack of communication of these changes to parents preparing for the coming school year.

Read more about the district's initiatives to generate more revenue in the coming fiscal year here.

Also of note

The board also voted June 17 to hire an outside firm, Weaver and Tidwell, to conduct an efficiency audit for $14,000. Killian said at the June 13 work session he hopes the audit identifies cost-saving measures the administration hasn’t yet considered.

Calling a voter-approval tax rate election, or VATRE, in most cases requires Texas school districts to conduct an efficiency audit no later than four months before the election, according to the Texas Association of School Business Officials, or TASBO. This means the district could have a VATRE on the ballot as soon as November.

District documents show a VATRE could generate an estimated $109 million in additional taxpayer dollars if approved. However, Killian has previously said this isn’t an ideal solution.

“It’s not something that people want to do; it’s not something that’s attractive to a school board to go out there and call for an election and ask for the local taxpayer to take on more burden, and so we are tightening our belt,” Killian said at a May 6 board meeting.

Killian’s previous district, Pflugerville ISD, had VATREs on the ballot in 2022 and 2023—both of which were approved and brought in additional operating revenue, according to PfISD’s website.

TASBO’s website states the results of the efficiency audit don’t decide whether a district can call for an election, but it is meant to be an information resource for community members.

The audit will compare CFISD to peer districts in the following categories:
  • Accountability ratings
  • Financial ratings
  • Student demographics
  • Attendance rates
  • Enrollment
  • Revenue and expenses
  • Staff ratios
  • Teacher turnover rates
  • Special programs
  • Fund balance for the past 5 years
Smith said the board can expect a report on the audit’s results at the August or September board meeting.