CROSBY – Monday’s Trustee meeting included a packed room, four citizen’s comments, extensive discussion of dire finances and a Superintendent’s report of what the state of the finances are, what needs to be done and how the district will get to the point of solvency to avoid being taken over by the State.
Dr. Scott Davis, Superintendent of Crosby ISD, and recently-hired Chief Financial Officer, Lesa Jones, presented an overview of the District’s current financial state.
Davis has been in regular communication with the Texas Education Agency regarding Crosby ISD’s financial state and will continue to provide regular updates to the Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath.
He indicated that no one wants to see Crosby ISD taken over by the State.
“Be careful what you wish for.”
In 2015 and 2016 the Board of Trustees discussed how to get the “highest academic standards possible.” At the last meeting everyone learned from the Accountability Report that Crosby ISD was rated a ‘B’ according to the Domain Scores by the State – neighboring school districts were rated “Met Standard” or “Substandard.” One easy way to get student’s scores up is to hire more teachers. Generally it is held that the lower the teacher to student ratio, the faster students learn. Although, there are certainly studies that indicate otherwise or that it makes no difference.
Monday attendees and trustees learned why we have seen the last hiring of over 200 new teachers in a district with nearly 6000 students. While personnel normally accounts for about 80% of a district’s budget, it has been found that about 89% of Crosby ISD budget goes to personnel.
Superintendent Davis painted a bleak picture of unknown layoffs near Christmas and slashing spending “to the bone and then cutting a little bone.” The budget passed last June is about to undergo revisions and special meetings are ordered to consider the new budget plans and what to do about the spending, mostly on personnel and what to cut elsewhere in the system.
District Staff will partake in a series of meetings in the next week to determine which items are absolutely essential in order to operate each campus and/or department. The goal will be to reduce staff budgets dramatically in order to protect as many positions as possible. Another wish was that growth would offset spending by adding revenue, that happened once but not since.
Thus far 18 full time employee teachers and 13 auxiliary full time employees have been replaced by attrition.
There seems to be a lot of blame, a forensic audit has found a lot of support to punish those that may have done something criminal to create these economic conditions. A forensic audit calls for a 1/ 2 million dollars that the district doesn’t have. Davis seemed to advise instead for a financial analysis and a internal control analysis, preventing the same ole’ mistakes but says he will do as requested by the board.
In addition to providing an overview of the District’s financial state, Davis also provided an initial plan of cost-saving measures he believes will mitigate any further financial repercussions and ultimately lead to financial restoration for Crosby ISD. Some of these cost-saving measures have already been implemented while others are imminent.
The budget passed in June is about $5 Million over incoming revenue. In the Spring of 2019, the district will need an external lending solution to subsidize the continued cash flow shortage and create a reduced dependency on borrowing for cash flow shortages.
The District is currently pursuing a formal declaration of financial exigency based on the condition that the District’s General Fund Balance was reduced by more than 20% in the past two years.
Dr. Davis emphasized that a problem of this magnitude will require “great resolve” from the district and community. “Complete restoration of Crosby ISD’s financial integrity is absolutely possible with sound financial planning and steadfast adherence to the recovery plan,” said Davis. “It will be a matter of time, perseverance, and mutual support between district and community to see Crosby ISD thrive financially.”
The total amount of discrepancy discovered by Davis was about $9.6 Million.