NEW BRAUNFELS — The present and the near future were topics of discussion for Comal Independent School District’s board of trustees Tuesday in a workshop session at the CISD Support Services Building.

The meeting largely centered on the future use of the district’s $57.1 million fund balance, which will partially be applied to maintenance and operations over the next several years. Superintendent Marc Walker’s revised list of budget cuts now totals $11.1 million, and after applying $5.8 million of fund balance for next year, the district is still short.

In a review of bills now before the Legislature, Walker explained Comal ISD could lose between $13.8 million and $29.1 million because of House Bill 1, and at least $11.3 million in a bill now before the Senate.

Regardless of which state funding bill becomes law, Walker said the district should not expect to see $452,000 in various incentives and technology funds it received in 2009-10. He also warned if things remained the same over the next several years, Comal ISD could see a loss of $5.8 million loss each year until the state finds a new funding mechanism for public schools.

“The big adjustment for people not only in Texas, but across the United States is going to be higher class sizes,” he said. “There’s going to be no way around it.”

Comal ISD has already done that for 2011-12, as 62 positions will be gone because of attrition. Another 30 positions will go in departmental staff reductions, and combined with departmental cuts, it will save more than $2 million. Even funding for Communities In Schools, which has 11 positions serving at-risk kids at several campuses, will be eliminated, saving $300,000.

Board members also looked at future numbers that indicate increasing district population, and realized there are more hard decisions. CISD officials are considering rezoning elementary school and middle school boundaries to postpone future construction of schools serving those levels, as well as another high school in the western part of the county.

Not all members were sold on that idea. Upon seeing rising enrollments for Canyon and Smithson Valley high schools — and falling enrollments for Canyon Lake High — over the next several years, board president Carol Keller wasn’t thrilled.

“When we’re looking at a high school that will have only about 800 kids during the next eight to 10 years, and yes, I know about transportation costs, it doesn’t make much economic sense,” Keller said, adding she believes there’s a way to balance all high schoolers throughout the district.

However, Walker said the demographers disagree, explaining logistics as the reason. Board member David Spencer again reiterated what he’s said all spring — that the district should spend more of its fund balance to benefit itself, before the state takes over.

“I think it would be advantageous to reduce the fund balance, given what’s going on,” he said, preferring to see more fund balance used in construction projects. “It would be prudent to do it before we have to go back and have to recover it through a bond.”

The district is eyeing a $113 million bond election in May 2013 for two elementary schools, two middle schools and/or a high school. Although board members realize growth dictates the need, they don’t want to put the cart before the horse, at least not yet.   

“I think we only ought to look at what we have to do now, and then figure what the state is going to do before doing that,” trustee Bill Swint said.

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