Cy-Fair ISD explores alternative revenue sources as money runs dry

After several years and more than $120 million in budget cuts, Cy-Fair ISD is examining alternative ways in which it can maximize its revenue.

During the March and May board meetings, trustees heard presentations related to ways to increase revenue at the Berry Center—including the sale of alcohol at nonstudent events—after consulting firm Stafford Sports made a recommendation that the district serve alcohol at the facility.

"The Stafford Report indicated [alcohol sales] could increase revenue from rentals, rentals of AV equipment and increased revenue from catering," said Pam Wells, associate superintendent for governmental, community and planning initiatives. "Clearly, a requirement would be maintaining separation from nonstudent and student events."

The district would only be allowed to serve alcohol at events in which food and beverages are served. Additionally, CFISD would not be involved in the sale of alcohol itself, but it would award a vendor through a bid process.

During the 2010–11 school year, there were 156 available days in which it would have been permissible to sell alcohol at the Berry Center. A conservative forecast for the first year suggests $300,000 would be earned in revenue from events such as weddings, corporate receptions and touring concerts. Profit earned would be about 48 percent, or $144,000.

Unless the district does everything it can to generate revenue, it is tough to go to Austin and tell lawmakers the district's state funding situation is not fair, said trustee Don Ryan.

"Once we maximize what we can generate as far as revenue goes, then we can say, 'Look what we've done and we're still this far behind,'" he said. "Even if we generate $60,000 in revenue in the first year, that's a teacher's salary; it's not chump change."

The board has not voted on the alcohol sales issue yet, but the district is involved in other programs to bring in additional revenue. In mid-May, CFISD received a $260,000 rebate from TXU Energy, its electrical service provider. Additionally, the new rate of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity charges—the lowest of any district in Houston—will save CFISD about $1 million for the 2013–14 school year.

"Our energy management team has done an excellent job in maximizing our participation in various rebate programs so we can reinvest those funds into new initiatives," said Roy Sprague, assistant superintendent for facilities and construction. "This results in lower costs, so dollars can go back to the classroom."

In addition, CFISD announced in late May it will expand its after-school daycare program, Club Rewind, to all middle school campuses beginning this fall. Started during the 2010–11 school year, Club Rewind is a revenue-generating initiative that brought in more than $1 million during the 2011–12 school year, said Kelli Durham, assisstant superintendent for communication.

CFISD has implemented several other initiatives, including bus advertising and leasing available property on which mobile service providers can build cell towers, Durham said.

By Marie Leonard
Marie came to Community Impact Newspaper in June 2011 after starting her career at a daily newspaper in East Texas. She worked as a reporter and editor for the Cy-Fair edition for nearly 5 years covering Harris County, Cy-Fair ISD, and local development and transportation news. She then moved to The Woodlands edition and covered local politics and development news in the master-planned community before being promoted to managing editor for the South Houston editions in July 2017.