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Financial dark cloud looming over school districts

December 17, 2010

A storm is coming, and it has nothing to do with the weather.

Big Spring Independent School District officials are awaiting with a degree of trepidation the start of the 2011 session of the Texas Legislature. The reason? A projected multi-billion dollar state budget shortfall that's liable to have a chilling effect on any agency dependent on state funds.

BSISD Superintendent Steven Saldivar braced school trustees for some possible bad news during their monthly meeting Thursday night in the high school board room.

Saldivar and other BSISD officials recently returned from a legislative update session with other educators and legislators and said the forecast is somewhat grim.

“There's no good news,” he said flatly. “One thing we have to be cognizant about is that state officials are now estimating a $28 billion shortfall in the next budget cycle. One comment that was made (during the conference) is that, across the state, districts may be looking at getting rid of about 15,000 teachers.”

Saldivar broke down the state numbers: With a projected budget of around $180 billion — and with $100 billion of that amount tied to other expenditures — that will leave about $80 billion in state money to be split among what Saldivar called “the big three” — prisons, health and human services, and schools.

In short, there's liable to be a whole lot of cutting going on when lawmakers craft the next state budget, and school districts like BSISD are likely to feel the pinch.

“When you look at the budget shortfall, it's huge,” he said. “For us, it may mean a loss of revenue as much as $2 million.”

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