By Elsa Maxey
In accordance with several projections, including the possibility of the legislature not using a portion of the Rainy Day Fund and/or additional sources of revenue, FBISD will be impacted by multi-million dollar annual losses and possibly be forced to reduce its budget by as much as $74 million per year. These are the scenarios presented by district financial officer Tracy Hoke, who addressed the board members in a budget workshop Monday. The challenges were presented in three tiered budget proposals developed under several assumptions. The biggest unknown is that FBISD does not know how much will be allocated by the state legislature and it may not know until after it adopts its budget on June 13. The district’s $100 million fund balance, out of district school transfers, sliding fee scale student charges, the declaration of a financial exigency and possible teacher and non-teacher reductions will all be part of a series of five budget workshops between March 28 and May 25.
At almost 11 p.m. Monday night the board continued to meet in regular session with nine more action items still pending. The public meetings had begun with the district’s budget workshop, and the fully packed board room finally began to clear after the trustees adopted three zoning proposals for the upcoming school year after a long and arduous process that took about three hours. “I have never witnessed so much anger,” said school district President Sonal Bhuchar about this year’s zoning process, which started in October and would end with the rezoning adoptions, but not before hearing 18 more individuals that signed up to speak to voice their opinions.
Three sets of zoning proposal were adopted, mostly as presented by district staff for the upcoming school year for elementary, middle and high schools.
It was erroneously understood by many attending the school board meeting and at least another news source, in addition to the Star that high school students living in Heritage Colony and Lake Colony would continue to attend Clements High School. A failed amendment also included changing an Elkins attendance zone of high students in the Lantern Lane Elementary school zone to Marshall and Willowridge High Schools, which are both underutilized. This will not take place.
Fort Bend ISD released the approved attendance zones Wednesday morning, which will be effective beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, with grandfathering provisions that will allow students and their families a period of time to transition to the new attendance zones:
· The elementary zones approved will allow rising fifth graders to remain at the campus they currently attend rather than moving to their newly zoned campus; however bus transportation for those students would not be provided.
· The middle school zones approved will allow rising seventh and eighth graders to remain at the campus they currently attend rather than moving to their newly zoned campus; however bus transportation for those students would not be provided.
· And, the high school zones approved will allow rising eleventh and twelfth graders to remain at the campus they currently attend rather than moving to their newly zoned campus; however bus transportation for those students would not be provided. The board approved one exception to the recommended high school changes which will keep 33 students that live in Quail Green South at Marshall High School rather than zoning them to Elkins High School.
There were motions and amendments during the zoning action items that caused confusion among board members and the audience requiring the board’s legal counsel to sort out the language. What was also at odds with the zoning proposals were motions and/or amendments that would essentially end up leaving zoning unaffected.
Emphatic statements about how this is not the time to rezone were expressed by board trustee Jim Babb, who was critical of the community input process involving an inaudible tense exchange between him and Superintendent Dr. Tim Jenney. Board trustee Marilyn Glover described bullying incidents that took place during the rezoning process pertaining to flyers placed on residents’ homes and fiercely starred at what seemed to be a member of the audience. Ultimately, the board’s concurrence is that the zoning process last utilized four years ago needed to go. Establishing a feasibility committee is now on the table for a manageable group to be comprised of district staff, board and community members as an attempt to work in unison in what may be a more effective, and probably more efficient process. For details of the adopted zoning proposals, interested persons are encouraged to visit fortbendisd.com or call the school district.