A decrease in student enrollment connected to COVID-19-related absenses could leave Burnet Consolidated Indpendent School District (BCISD) facing a potential $366,939 budget deficit, officials said in a meeting report.
The BCISD school board met during regular meeting on Oct. 19 in the Bertram Elementary Library and discussed topics which ranged from the impact of COVID-19 and potential state-administered virus testing to re-visiting a possible 2021 bond issue and bilingual teacher pay.
According to the most up-to-date figures, campuses reported an enrollment decrease of approximately120 students.
“Even with the state providing a hold-harmless enrollment and attendance provision for the first semester of the school year, the district is projecting a $366,939 budget deficit for the current year,” stated Superintendent Keith McBurnett in a postmeeting report. Approximately 85 percent of students are attending in-person classes.
An update was provided at the meeting by BCISD Chief Financial Officer Clay Goehring along with a routine monthly financial report.
Goehring’s report detailed some of the “operational and instructional issues related to COVID-19.”
Also, officials informed the board about the potential for “a rapid COVID testing program that will soon be administered by the state.”
In McBurnett’s post-meeting report, he stated, “Even though this feels like progress towards normal, COVID continues to cause large disruptions in the pacing and flow of the instructional year, as well as presenting difficulties to teachers working to meet the needs of remote and in-person students.”
“Also, the district is seeing an uptick of positive COVID cases and of students being deemed as close contact because of parents testing positive for COVID,” he continued. “Everyone was encouraged to continue following the district’s protocols.”
Administrators reminded board members about a $1 million savings set aside a few years ago which anticipated a potential likelihood of lost state revenue to give the district leeway in operations “without making cuts” for the remainder of the school year.
“If however the reduced enrollment continues, the 2021-2022 budget will be greatly impacted, anywhere from $594,338 to $1,189,000 in lost revenue,” McBurnett explained in his post-meeting report.
“This loss in revenue does not take into account any projected reduction in state funding for education due to an estimated $4.6 billion deficit in the state budget.
“In both cases the true impact of the loss of student enrollment and the reduction in state funding probably won’t be felt until summer or early September of 2021,” he continued.
In other business, the board:
• Heard about a possible May 2021 bond program proposal. Administrators emphasized the importance of “paying for major renovations and purchases out of interest and sinking (I&S) order to take pressure off of the operating budget.
“Because of outstanding planning, the board approved paying off $1.5 million is debt in August and will approve paying off an additional $1.5 million in debt in the spring,” McBurnett reported. “This action, along with rising property values, would allow the district to pass a bond without having to raise the current historic low tax rate.
“The board reviewed possible projects for a May 2021 bond and requested that the administration continue planning for a future bond,” he continued.
• Received a report about the Financial Integrity Rating System (FIRST). Burnet CISD has earned the highest possible rating for each of the years the FIRST system has been in place since 2001. The district earned a rating of “Superior”, passing all 15 indicators, and was credited with a 100 of the possible 100 points for this year’s financial rating based on data from the 18-19 fiscal year, the report stated.
• Approved a multi-grade assignment stipend for eligible bilingual teachers. “Due to the number of bilingual students and lack of qualified bilingual teachers, there are times in which a bilingual teacher may be required to teach students in multiple grade levels in the same classroom in both Spanish and English,” the report stated. “This requires an increased amount of planning time outside of the school day to address teaching the full array of TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) multiple grade levels.”
• Recognized Ashton Floyd and Luke Kiser as Burnet High School Students of the Month. The board also recognized Emily Carley for earning a 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program Commendation.
• Heard a report from Rick Espitia of the Old Burnet Community Center (501. C3) for a proposal to utilize the venue to house a cultural center and museum at the Red Brick Building, which is not in use by the district.
Judith Shabram and Connie Swinney contributed to this report.