Category Archives: Round Rock

Round Rock ISD parents, employees offer input on budget cuts

Hundreds of parents, students and school employees packed the Round Rock High School cafeteria Feb. 15 to share ways to address the district’s anticipated budget shortfall for the 2011-12 school year, estimated as high as $73 million.

The event was the first in a series of public forums planned for RRISD to gather community input on the budget cutting process.

Texas lawmakers face an estimated $27 billion shortfall and $10 billion in cuts to school funding, forcing districts across the state to draft budget reduction strategies.

Cuts will be made across all departments and areas of the district, but efforts will be made to protect the classroom, Superintendent Jesús Chávez said.

“At the end of the day, I hope to pass a budget that will take less from the classroom and more from other areas,” Chávez said.

Chávez said RRISD will prepare a budget cutting about $60 million of its $345 million budget. The district plans to use $20 million of its rainy day fund each year for the next two years to lessen the impact of the budget cuts.

Those attending the forum were given a list of budget cut recommendations and asked to choose which areas they would cut, which areas they would save and add their own recommendations. Participants were then divided into small groups and asked to discuss their decisions.

The current list of recommendations are a collection of suggestions by RRISD staff, parents and community members on how to trim costs, such as reducing kindergarten to a half day and increasing class sizes.

The list also outlines a number of possible staff reductions in several areas of the district, including central administration, counselors, assistant principals, physical education teachers, librarians, instructional coaches and Talented and Gifted teachers.

Laurie Wagner, a PE teacher at Caraway Elementary School, said her top concern was saving PE teacher positions in the district.

“I’m concerned that they’ll get rid of PE teachers, and it will just be a bunch of aides in there,” said Wagner, who currently teaches 325 children with the help of one other teacher and several aides.

Susan Lobsenz and Angela Banker, both parents of students in Round Rock ISD, said they were most concerned about cuts made to fine arts programs and increasing class sizes.

“I’m afraid that by eliminating teacher jobs and increasing class sizes, it would reduce the quality of education every child receives,” Banker said.

Traci Reece, a mother of three children at Spicewood Elementary School, said while she was appreciative of the opportunity to offer input, she wondered if her comments would make a difference.

“It seems like they’ve made up their minds,” Reece said. “I’m curious to see if they give credence to our suggestions.”

Pflugerville ISD will host its community budget forum 7 p.m. March 2 at Kelly Lane Middle School.

View a list of suggested cuts for RRISD here.

Learn more about the budget cutting process in PISD here.

This article by Rebecca LaFlure  is reposted from Community Impact Newspapers

Feb. 10 Round Rock City Council Meeting

I decided to start attending Round Rock City Council meetings to better understand what’s going on in my new hometown. I moved here in July, and this is my first city council meeting. I will be reporting what happens at the meetings with an emphasis on issues that impact libertarians and our struggle to create a more free and prosperous society.

The agenda begins with citizen communication. Round Rock residents can speak for 3 minutes on any topic as long as they are not specifically criticizing a specific employee or city council member. There were multiple speakers on two topics. A spokesman from the Round Rock Veterans of Foreign Wars addressed the council. Councilman George White is the commander of the local VFW, but it was Jimmy Hill, a local member, who addressed the council. He wanted to commemorate the loss of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor because (in his words) “the key historical event that led America from a continental power to becoming a true worldwide empire.” Most conservatives spend a lot of time trying to deny that America is an empire and no longer a republic, so the honesty from the pro-military empire folks was refreshing.

The manager of Flix Brewhouse and another citizen spoke in favor of giving an economic incentive to Flix Brewhouse. Later in the agenda we found out that they are opening a restaurant/bar style movie theater similar to Alamo Drafthouse. It will be located at Hester’s Crossing. If Flix opens and hires the equivalent of 85 full-time employees, the city will give them $12,000 in 2011, $6,000 in 2012, and $3,000 for 2013. It is estimated that Flix will generate $120,000 annually in new tax revenue for the city, so the incentive of $21,000 over three years is really just a tax rebate. It seems laughable that a business with over a million dollars in annual projected revenue would move to Round Rock over a paltry $21,000 incentive. As a Libertarian, I should be upset about the economic incentive, it is effectively taking tax money away from other Round Rock businesses and residents to favor another private business. It’s a very small amount of money in our city’s annual budget of $131 million, but it sets a very bad precedent for the future. Showering favors on certain businesses at the expense of others is not a business-friendly environment.

The City Council, and especially Councilman Joe Clifford should be congratulated for resisting the temptation to raise our franchise fees paid to Atmos Energy. Some Texas cities have been demanding that Atmos pay their cities taxes (a franchise fee) that includes the tax money they collect. For example, Atmos collects $5 for every $100 in gas they sell and this fee is given to the city. Some cities actually wanted to collect a fee on that $5. In essence, a fee on a fee (a tax on a tax). Our Round Rock City Council rejected an offer from Atmos Energy to collect this fee. Good for them!

I was shocked a little by the last item on the agenda. Round Rock will pay $1.1 million to Microsoft for licensing fees over the next 6 years for computers the city uses. It seems to me that an open source system, or some other option might reduce this significant amount. With all the software people in Round Rock, you would think we could find a better, cheaper way to handle this.

That’s it for my first city council meeting. Maybe after I get the hang of it, I will feel comfortable speaking in favor of a more free and prosperous city.