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Deficit budgets and belt tightening

By Susan Reeves

When our family moved to Franklin County seven years ago, we were faced with a major reduction in our income. We had to reduce our expenses accordingly, because creditors don’t like it when you operate your household on a deficit budget. When the economic downturn started a couple of years ago, we tightened our belt a little more.
It is a shame that the State of Texas was not able to look into their crystal ball and realize that the wave of layoffs and down sizing companies would result in reduced taxes. It is apparent now, and all this talk about deficit budgets and the resulting program cuts across the board has a lot of people upset with the State. I am glad I am not in the Texas Legislature now that they have to decide where to take money from.
Do they take money away from schools and “ruin Texas’ future” like some news reports say? Do they take it away from libraries and set back all the advances they have made? Do they cut long term care funding for older Texans, knowing that patient care will suffer? It is a no win situation for everyone involved.
The large metropolitan districts are in a panic over the anticipated cuts. I was in the Austin area recently, and news reports indicated that Austin ISD was considering closing campuses to help meet the budget cuts. Plano ISD announced it would lay off around 100 teachers due to the shortfall. Dallas ISD is considering laying off approximately 300 teachers who were hired using stimulus money to pay their salaries. Mount Vernon ISD used stimulus money to purchase technology equipment and other one time cost items knowing that they would not get a second helping of that funding.
Back in November, Superintendent John Kaufman warned members of the Mount Vernon School Board that budget cuts were coming, and they could lose as much as 25 percent of the funding received from the state. Our school received $4 million last year, so that could be as much as $1 million cut from the school’s funding. The latest reports now put the cuts at 10 to 15 percent.
Board members took a hard look at the proposed cuts and stated the district would be able to weather the cuts over the next two years. They even feel confident they will be able to cover expenses if the state delays their payments next Fall. One sign of the board’s confidence was the $9,000 raise that gave to Mr. Kaufman. Hopefully, they have a raise for the remainder of the district’s employees budgeted too.
Past school board members have lobbied against holding back contingency funds for emergencies, but now is the time when that money will come in handy. The administrators and board members for Mount Vernon schools deserve a thumbs up for their fiscal responsibility.