Spring ISD Finances: Where does the money come from and where does it go?

Spring ISD is changing and your vote will keep it happening!

The $5.4-billion cut in funding for Texas public schools in 2011 was still impacting Texas public education in 2015. Texas public schools still had increased class sizes, understaffed schools, and flat test scores (Source: www.texastribune.org/2015/08/31/texas-schools-still-feeling-2011-budget-cuts/). In Spring ISD, surviving the 2011 budget cuts required making decisions no one wants to make:

  • Do we save the jobs of teachers or do we keep services such as busing within 2 miles?
    TRANSLATION: Do we pay fewer numbers of teachers and give them classes with 40+ students, or do we expect a 6-year-old to walk over a mile to and from school along busy streets?
  • Do we cut funding for extracurricular programs, or do we stop repairing/renovating/opening our school buildings?
    TRANSLATION: Do we stop funding band, choir, art, drama, all athletics, Tri-Club, and ROTC; or do we neglect building repairs, keep a 20-year-old phone system for which we can no longer obtain replacement parts, and allow a brand-new elementary school to remain empty because there is no money to hire staff for the school?    

Sometimes there were no good funding choices, only “less bad” choices.
NOW Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson went on a listening tour as soon as he arrived on the job in 2014. He wanted to know what parents, residents without children, and Spring ISD employees wanted their school district to be and what they wanted Spring ISD to do. Many parents wanted bus transportation back for their children. Some parents also wanted high-quality full-day pre-K services, while many community members wanted more CTE programs. 
How do you provide a service or building you can’t afford? Dr. Watson’s solution was to overhaul the budgeting process in Spring ISD, obtain grants, and form partnerships to provide needed services. Almost 88% OF OUR BUDGET GOES TO PAYROLL AND BENEFITS, so external support and internal budgeting changes were extremely important to support programs. For example:

  • A building that housed support services personnel was repurposed to become our district’s badly needed alternative school, Richey Academy. (It was very expensive to send DAEP students outside the district. In 2012, Spring ISD budgeted $475,000 for 50 students to attend Highpoint, the Harris County Department of Education’s DAEP.) 
  • Inexpensive buildings in our community were bought and renovated for a fraction of the cost of new construction. We now have our Spring Leadership Academy Middle School, Teach Up! professional development center, Spring ISD Police Command Center & Tax Office, and a community engagement center in renovated buildings.
  • Partners provided the personnel, instructional programs, and supplies for many services in Spring ISD.
  • Partners provided scholarships for the post-graduate education of many Spring ISD students and personnel.   
  • Partners provided classroom materials for teachers.
  • Partners provided workplace educational experiences for CTE students. 

In addition, we added personnel and systems to prevent fraud and bad financial practices.  An internal auditor who reports to the Board of Trustees was hired. The Financial Services Department continued to use an External Auditor to review their department’s records. Both a hotline to report fraud and the ELEVATE system have been established.  Parents, personnel, and trustees received training & policy updates to help them follow legal guidelines and good financial practices.
The majority of money supporting Spring ISD comes from the State of Texas and local property taxes. Early each year we receive an estimate of the taxes expected to be collected. Then we build a preliminary budget based on that estimate. By June, trustees have reviewed and adjusted the budget multiple times before we vote to pass the final budget. However, in the real world, nothing is that simple. This year, the value of property in Spring ISD was HIGHER than the estimate at the beginning of the year. In addition, the State of Texas reimbursed our school district for fewer property taxes collected in 2017 due to Hurricane Harvey. We were able to use this unexpected, one-time income to give our employees a one-time $1,000 bonus and to fund repairs and supplies for our schools. In addition, the Board of Trustees just set the LOWEST tax rate in 20 years for Spring ISD property owners. 

For more information, see:  Where Does Our Money Come From?https://www.springisd.org/FinancialTransparency)

  • We will continue to be diligent in our important duty of financial oversight of Spring ISD.  
  • We thank our tax-payers and we pledge to continue to use their money in the most efficient, effective, and ethical ways possible to educate our students.
  • We will continue to support our award-winning Financial Services Department in their vital role.  

Spring ISD achieved a rating of “A” which indicates “Superior” for financial accountability in Texas’ School FIRST rating system (See: https://www.springisd.org/cms/lib/TX01918331/Centricity/Domain/72/2017-18%20School%20FIRST%20Report.pdf)  

This post is not an official Spring ISD communication. It expresses the personal opinions of Dr. Deborah Jensen/Position #1Kelly P. Hodges, and Justine Durant/Position #3on the Spring ISD Board of Trustees. Any errors or omissions are ours.