By Karen Daniels
Normally the joint budget meetings between Stafford City Council and SMSD Board of Trustees adhere to a two hour timetable, however at the May 16 meeting, the agenda list was so packed with important financial information, the meeting ran an hour and twenty-three minutes over. To put it plainly, practically everything in the budget is facing an increase. There is some potential good news, though. Superintendent Dr. Lance Hindt said that he has spoken with the district’s legislative representative, Mr. John Pitts, and there is talk in Austin that approximately $3.2 billion may be returned to school districts across Texas. How they divide this money, of course, remains to be seen.
With the school construction coming to a completion this year there will be new hires to consider. Eight new teachers will be added, a new librarian will be needed to help with extended hours, a new position will be created to oversee the three lower level schools, a data entry/verifier is required for the student state-wide tracking system, an assistant superintendent to handle administrative tasks, and eight new custodial positions will be needed for the 2013-14 school year. Also discussed was a 3% across the board raise for teachers and staff. This is the hiring season and Dr. Hindt wants to “stay ahead of the other districts” and attract talented teachers for Stafford MSD bringing “unity to the community” with tax dollars being spent in a way that directly benefits the students. This will be voted on by the SMSD Board of Trustees at a later meeting.
In future school news, there was talk by Dr. Hindt to add another Pre-K program. “I am strongly considering bringing in the possibility of Pre-K for 3 year-olds because our biggest issue with educating our kids is they come to us already behind.” Sadly, some 4 year-olds enter school without having opened a book. Studies show that the most critical learning time for kids is between the ages of 2 and 6.
Lastly, a request had been made of Dr. Hindt at a previous meeting to find “alternative revenue sources” for the district. As Dr. Hindt presented options he had researched from other schools, such as charging $10 per day for Pre-K students (the state only reimburses for half-day), fees for fine arts and athletic programs, he made it clear that he is opposed to taking these measures. Mayor Leonard Scarcella said, “How do you go to the parents of kids on subsidized lunch programs and ask for money?” Both Dr. Hindt and the Mayor agreed that this is not an avenue that Stafford MSD wants to pursue.