Spring ISD leaders proposed $11.7 million in budget cuts for the fiscal year 2023-24 budget May 4 despite seeing an estimated 12.4% increase in property values.

What happened: SISD received its first estimated certified property values from the Harris County Appraisal District, SISD’s Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks said, which showed an anticipated increase compared to FY 2022-23.
  • With an estimated enrollment of 34,265 students in the 2023-24 school year, this gives SISD an estimated maintenance and operations tax rate of $0.7833 per $100 valuation.
Quote of note: “This is the first certified estimate, and the actual maximum compressed tax rate is based upon the July certified estimate that we receive after the district's budget has been passed, and that's what will ultimately determine what our final maintenance and operations tax rate will be,” Westbrooks said.

Budget cuts: Westbrooks said a committee of principals, department heads and administrators labored to find $15 million in budget cuts for the FY 2023-24 budget. At the May 4 meeting, SISD leaders presented proposed budget cuts for the administration office and the elementary, middle and high schools.

The details: According to a presentation made by SISD leaders May 4, proposed cuts for the FY 2023-24 budget included:
  • Moving the district’s bus routes so students must live more than 2 miles from campus or be subject to hazardous conditions to ride the bus in the 2024-25 school year and cutting bus drivers’ contracts to 180 days per year in the 2023-24 school year, representing a combined savings of about $1.56 million
  • Eliminating multiple positions—such as library aides, clerical aides and central office staff—throughout the district, beginning in the 2023-24 school year, which would save the district about $3.67 million
  • Cutting about $265,500 in stipends or incentives—including transportation attendance incentives and team leader stipends—which would begin in the 2023-24 or 2024-25 school years
  • Moving multiple positions in the district to other funding sources beginning in the 2023-24 school year, which would represent a savings of about $6.67 million
  • Discontinuing the Community Youth Services program—which provides community-based crisis counseling and intervention services for students—starting in the 2023-24 school year, which would save $300,000
What trustees are saying: Board President Justine Durant and Trustee Deborah Jensen expressed concern about the idea of reducing the district’s bus routes. Durant said the district tried something similar in 2011, and that time period still gives her “nightmares.”

“We had instances where people were asking, ‘How do you expect a first-grader to walk 2 miles to a school?’ ... This is very problematic,” Jensen said.

The bottom line: Spring ISD trustees did not take any action on the proposed staff incentives or the preliminary budget at the May 4 board workshop or at the following May 9 board meeting. Trustees approved last year's budget in June.