BSISD trustees to start tackling budget

Big Spring school trustees will begin hammering out details of the district's next budget when they meet at 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the high school board room.Budget crafting is never a pleasant undertaking, but it may be worse Big Spring ISD officials this year. As things stand now, the district is looking for ways to make do with about $1 million less in state appropriations this coming fiscal year.Among the many factors state education officials consider when deciding on appropriations is a local district's property valuations — simply put, the higher the amount of the local tax rolls, the less state money is sent to the district.The problem for BSISD is that the state is using 2012's valuation total — $1.6 billion — in determining this year's appropriation, while estimates of this year's tax rolls is about $400 million less than that figure, BSISD Business Manager Debbie Green said. The result is a double whammy — the state will send the district less money, while the district will have a smaller pool of local tax dollars to collect.If those estimates hold, and the local school district does indeed lose $1 million in state appropriations, BSISD trustees will face some big problems in cobbling together a budget, she conceded.“Our expenditures look to be very much on track to what they were last year,” Green said. “If (appropriation estimates hold), the trustees will have some tough decisions to make.”Raising the tax rate is out of the question — BSISD, like almost every other school district in the state, is at the maximum rate allowed by state law. So, that leaves cutting costs as the only realistic option trustees face.Cutting costs will be a delicate operation, to say the least, because so much of the district's expenditures are figuratively set in stone — for example, salaries make up about 75 percent of BSISD's budget, and most of those figures are mandated by the state.“We've got to pay salaries, we've got to pay utilities and we have other necessary expenses, as well,” Green said. “There's only so much we can cut.”