Big Spring ISD eyeing budget

Big Spring Independent School District officials are already thinking about their next budget, but few of those thoughts are pleasant.Continued cuts in state revenue have educators across the state scrambling to balance educational needs with decreased funds, and Big Spring ISD is no exception.When Texas legislatures crafted the state's biennial budget in 2010, they cut more than $5 billion from education expenditures. That meant local school districts would have to make do with less — in Big Spring's case, about $3 million less — over a two-year period.The first half of that $3 million cut took effect during the current school year, and officials were able to weather that decrease without firing personnel and still submitting a balanced budget in the process. However, another $1.5 million in state revenue will be slashed in 2012-2013, and officials are understandably concerned about the effect that will have on the upcoming budget.Business Manager Debbie Green said preliminary figures show school district expenditures, which exceeded $30 million during the 2010-2011 budget year, will be around $26.5 million during the coming fiscal cycle.BSISD Superintendent Steven Saldivar said the district will do everything it can to balance the new budget while maintaining current staffing levels and services, but stopped short of providing any guarantees.“Our goal is to have a balanced budget while not cutting personnel,” Saldivar said. “Now, can I promise you that? Not today. My goal is to not bring (school trustees) a deficit budget, but our No. 1 goal is the education of our students.” Personnel costs, which comprise almost 80 percent of the BSISD budget, is the biggest area of concern, but Saldivar said reductions in staffing levels is the last thing school officials want to contemplate.“Last year, we were able to get by through attrition, freezing salaries and eliminating some positions,” Saldivar said. “One of our goals this year is not to cut staff positions … We cannot afford for our class sizes to get any bigger.”Saldivar said building the district's next budget promises to be a mammoth task.“The major question is: How can be be wise with the money we have coming in?” he said. “We are very aware that every penny will have to be put in the right place, and if that takes us 20 hours a day to figure out, we'll take 20 hours a day. We have to make sure our funds are used wisely, and they're used to best meet our needs.”