Lots of DISD news Thursday, most of it positive, as the board met to discuss budget deficit progress, extending trustee terms, reviewing academic progress and evaluating how improvements to the accounting program are going. Here's a brief summary:
• The biggest news: Last year's DISD budget deficit, originally estimated at $64 million for this year, has been lowered to about $52 million as a result of additional state and local revenues. And this year's deficit, originally estimated at $84 million, has been reduced to about $75 million, prior to the recent teacher layoffs (which are projected to reduce the deficit by about $26 million) and program cuts (which reduce the projected deficit by about $28.2 million, leaving the district still about $28 million over budget for this year.
Supt. Michael Hinojosa says the city has asked state and federal officials for "alternative funding", and increased revenues from higher-than-projected student attendance and "pending legal settlements" also could wipe out all or part of the remaining deficit. The "worst-case" scenario would force DISD to withdraw money from the district's fund balance, which would leave the fund with about $40 million.
• Regarding a proposal to extend trustees' terms to four years, an increase from the current three, it sounds as if the board is just about ready to approve this change, according to a DMN story. Trustee Carla Ranger appears to be a one-woman wrecking crew in terms of opposing the term limit extension, which would take effect when/if approved by the board, resulting in one-year extensions to the terms of Leigh Ann Ellis, Edwin Flores and Ron Price; their terms would expire in 2010 instead of 2009. Terms of the other trustees would be adjusted accordingly, resulting in trustee elections every two years (as opposed to every year now); the board believes it will save about $250,000 every year an election isn't held.
• Academic progress at DISD is moving in the right direction, according to the National Center for Educational Achievement. The group provides an annual review of DISD academic progress, saying the district improved in nine of 17 earlier recommendations, registered no change on six recommendations, and fell back on two recommendations. A NCEA spokesman told board members the district appeared to be headed in the right direction.
• Finally, remember the district's much-discussed accounting audit that took forever to finish? When it finally wrapped up earlier this year, the audit indicated DISD had plenty of areas to improve upon, but since the audit didn't finish until about the time another school year was to begin, a number of the changes the audit recommended haven't been completed yet. And yet another audit will show that shortfall, the board was told. However, a DISD financial exec told trustees that of the 105 tasks the audit recommended that DISD take, 49 have been completed so far, and by this time next year all of the recommendations should have been implemented
So there you have it.