San Antonio ISD Expects $31 Million Revenue Shortfall in 2018-19

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

Superintendent Pedro Martinez delivered a dim outlook for the San Antonio Independent School District's finances in 2018-19 at Monday night's board meeting. He introduced the budget process by alerting trustees that they may be dealing with a $31 million revenue shortfall due to a sharp decline in enrollment over the last two years.

SAISD Chief Financial Officer Larry Garza said in that period of time, the district has lost approximately 3,000 students, which has resulted in a projected decrease in state funding. Garza said that he anticipates the state's funding share of SAISD's budget to decrease from 56 percent, as anticipated at the beginning of the 2017-18 year, to 50 percent in 2018-19.

SAISD spokeswoman Leslie Price said that in the coming months, the district will take steps so that it will not have to start the year with a budget deficit.

From 2016-17, to projected numbers for 2018-19, SAISD estimates its enrollment will decline from 52,486 to 49,908, which represents a decrease of almost 5 percent. And while SAISD projects that enrollment will sit just under 50,000, the district is anticipating the average daily attendance will be 43,890. State funding rests heavily on this figure.

This enrollment drop correlates to a decline in state funding, Martinez said. The district adopted a 2017-18 budget with the state contributing $270 million, or about 56 percent of all revenue to SAISD's general fund.

Looking forward to 2018-19, the district said the state will likely contribute $225.8 million, or 50 percent, to the general fund's revenue. This difference represents $44.2 million less in funding, although when taken with increased income from local property tax dollars, the total revenue loss comes out to $31 million.

Trustees discussed priorities to direct the budget making process, which continues through June. One includes "right-sizing" central administration, school administration, and positions at campuses to align with enrollment, according to the finance department.

Martinez said he would like to minimize the impact of the budget shortfall on students, families, and teachers.

Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Toni Thompson said the district normally hires roughly 500 teachers prior to a new school year, and some reduction in staff will come through attrition. At this point in the school year, Thompson said only 50 teachers have indicated they will leave the district following the 2017-18 year, although many teachers announce their departures in June or July.

Martinez emphasized that SAISD is not the only school district dealing with declining enrollment. He called it a county-wide problem.

North East ISD Superintendent Brian Gottardy has been vocal about the impact of charter schools in causing declines in NEISD's enrollment.

At a February board meeting, NEISD officials said the district had lost more than 2,000 students in 2016-17 to the "big four" charter schools: BASIS Texas, Great Hearts Texas, IDEA Public Schools, and KIPP San Antonio.

Martinez said that the growth of charter schools is not the only reason SAISD's enrollment is declining. He also suggested that growth north of San Antonio along Interstate 35 and recent immigration legislation could be contributing factors.

Even though 90 percent of SAISD's students are born in the United States, it doesn't mean all their parents are U.S. citizens, he said, adding that he has heard of students living with relatives because of action immigration officials have taken against their parents. Either way, the enrollment trend is certainly "across the entire county."

"There is a pattern here going on," he said. "My hope is that we go back to some normal growth in the county, but this year it doesn't appear like the county had that type of growth."

Other guiding principles suggested by SAISD's finance department included minimizing the impact on academic and extracurricular programs and streamlining the district's operations outside of the classroom.

Trustee Debra Guerrero said the lessened funding is just the "reality of what it is" and the district has to adapt to continue educating students. She suggested working with the San Antonio Housing Authority to find students not attending school on a daily basis. If SAISD can raise its average daily attendance and reduce truancy or absenteeism, enrollment declines won't hurt the district as much.

James Howard

James Howard

Trustee James Howard brought up a topic that is not often broached in regular meetings: district consolidation. He said that at a certain point, SAISD would have to engage in a long-term conversation about joining with other districts serving lower-income students that also are seeing enrollment declines. He specifically mentioned South San Antonio, Edgewood, and Harlandale ISDs.

"Sooner or later we are going to have start talking consolidation of school districts," he said. "We are all in the same boat."


16 thoughts on “San Antonio ISD Expects $31 Million Revenue Shortfall in 2018-19

  1. Let me summarize Supt. Martinez & SAISD as captured in the article: “There’s a $31 M shortfall, but it’s not my fault. It’s due things that are happening ‘across the County. We’re getting an unspecified dollar decrease in funding from the State that correlates to a drop in enrollment. I am not mentioning other possible causes. My ‘hope’ is that we’ll get revenue growth in the future. I have no data to support my claims. Thank you for attending this meeting.”

    • Thank you the updated figures. They add context.

      $44M out of $270M is a 16% reduction from the State. That hurts.

      If that decrease from the State is only partially offset by increased local tax revenues, it raises the question for residents and voters: my property taxes are going up – so why is my school district getting poorer? Inner-city “gentrification” is not helping our school funding problems. We’re paying more but getting less. What is being done in the Legislature to mitigate this?

      If reducing truancy (forecast ~12% daily) gets that per-student dollar figure back up, maybe that’s where a primary focus for the Administration lies for funding, not in new developments on the I-35 corridor.

      Kudos to Trustee Debra Guerrero for actually talking about getting students into the seats – it’s hard to learn and graduate if you’re not in class.

  2. Hello? Why is SAISD considering consolidation with other poor school districts rather than with the rich Northside districts? Talk about making a bad situation even worse viz the glaring educational disparities & economic segregation of San Antonio

    • It would take action by the State of Texas to force consolidation across Bexar County, poor and not as poor districts. SAISD, HarlandaleISD, SouthSanISD, and Edgewood ISD could voluntarily consolidate. Many moanings and groanings at that point but campuses will be closed or repurposed. A couple of items of note would be ONE superintendent and ONE school board for the new San Antonio Consolidated School District. How much money could the districts share that way? Northside ISD is not feeling the pinch yet but half that district is no different than the aforementioned districts.

    • The problem with consolidation with NISD or NEISD is that their way of running schools is vastly different than the older districts. Both of these districts favor large schools whereas districts like SAISD still favor a smaller, more individualized type of instruction. As CRZYTRN Garcia noted, consolidation would force school closures. Consolidation with the north side school districts would force an extreme (and politically unacceptable) number of closures. Those of us in SAISD voted to increase our tax rate partially in order to keep the smaller, but inherently less efficient, type of school culture.

      That said, I don’t think Harlandale would ever vote to join another district. They are fiercely independent and at times have had a better track record. As a former student in the South San ISD, it scares me to think of having one of their board members influence our current SAISD group.

  3. Why don’t they hire inhouse lawyers instead of hiring outside lawyers at $200+ per hour? I have seen the billings. Crazy. They would save bucks by not hiring outside law firms for doing their work. They have board counsel, they should have staff counsel doing this work instead. Board counsel has the incentive to make more legal work for more profits wants for the firm.

  4. 1. Top heavy administration, Top heavy Human Resources, Top heavy Curriculum Departments.
    2. Building a multi-million dollar Central Office to house top-heavy admin..
    3. Shut down schools that were supposed to save us money, were reopened with some other concept. Tax payers were deceived with use of bond money.
    4.Non performing school like Sam Houston, Page, Davis never closed because of where they are located.

    • Pedro has come in and changed many programs at the expense of our students, families and teachers (all the stakeholders). He’s on a mission to make money, use SAISD as a stepping stone and needs to quit forcing public schools into charter schools, especially with outside privatization from out of state administrators. A hatchet job by a hatchet man…..

  5. It’s always the same excuses. And, instead of tightening their budget and spending habits, they always start screaming for yet another ‘BOND’. They need to stop calling it a Bond. It’s actually a gigantic LOAN which only gets added on to the existing deficit. Nothing ever really gets fixed and the money just disappears. Oh yes, they have some really nice new facilities. But the teaching is mediocre, if not substandard. Government and other social studies teachers spend more time at political indoctrination of students rather than teaching them approved curriculum. A total waste of time…and everyone turns a blind eye to that practice. And, if students are packing up and leaving for private or charter schools, it’s because they are serious about a good and honest education. I myself, attended and graduated from Luther Burbank High School decades ago. We all received an excellent education. And, Burbank was a Vocational High School at that time. Still, we received a great education. So good an education that eight years after graduation (and fighting a war) I still scored very well on both the ACT and the SAT and needed no college prep courses to enter and begin college. And as financing back then. Burbank didn’t have all the nice sports fields and stadium nor the new buildings that I see there, today. However, it was virtually self sustaining with its student population and its vocational courses. It was a Win-Win situation because students could actually earn money at their vocation while in school and the school saw it too. Now, this may not go over well with many. But we also didn’t have the cost burden of Bilingual teachers and speech therapists back in those days. I, myself was a Spanish first language student. However, I prevailed at learning English simply because I wanted to and because I knew that it was like everything else, an opportunity to excel at. And I did. The school districts would rather pay for yet another ‘crutch’ for students rather than motivate them to truly excel on their own. So, let’s just throw some more money at the education problem and if it doesn’t work, then lets just ask for another Bond and increase the deficit yet again.

    • I’m sure the neighborhoods surrounding the schools you and Roberto attended have remained unchanged over the past decades? Correct?

  6. First, I wanted to agree with the comments that Burbank was an excellent school (and still might be).

    I am a teacher in a different district and during the 5 minutes of my lunch break where I am not grading papers, calling parents, making copies, tutoring students, reviewing lesson plans, reading material for department meetings, etc. I fell upon this article while searching for something completely different that I wanted to address in my classroom.

    I truly believe in making a difference and have taught in both inner city and ‘affluent’ districts in San Antonio. All the districts are feeling the ‘crunch’ and I wanted to make it widely known that many of us are not here for the salary, although we severely question the pay scale/grade in comparison to the number of hours and direct responsibility imposed on our position. Being in the position of a teacher, that unlike many other professions shows no salary adjustment based on effort and having been in a pay freeze for close to a decade (there have been two salary increases immediately offset by increased health insurance), I would like to throw my $.02 in and make it clear that I would without hesitation take a paycut to help ride out the economic deficiencies expected. Let us start a movement that takes ownership and pride in our districts and let us try to fix the problems from within.

  7. Maybe if the hotels and other entities would pay their taxes the SAISD would be in better financial shape. Many businesses are given multi year tax abatement’s to come here.

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