MIDLOTHIAN — Monday night’s Midlothian ISD board of trustees meeting offered little to look forward to for the coming budget season.

The board is working on the assumption of a $4.1 million budget shortfall for the 2011-12 year. Although, definite numbers have not yet been determined by the state, MISD officials said they’re making an effort to prepare a balanced budget within that parameter.

Dr. Edd Bigbee, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, presented additional proposed reductions for the board’s review relating to the ongoing budget process for the next year.

“We looked at the legislation that was out there to try to find out just where we may fall as far as reductions and as Dr. (Jerome) Stewart said we were around the 3.4 million but knowing that 4.1 was probably where we needed to get to. Then the news we saw today with the House Bill is more than that, but it’s a long way from either one of those being law,” Dr. Bigbee said. “These are the numbers we started with. The lowest was $1.5 million and we thought about $4.1 million – and the highest estimate we’d seen was $9.8 million and still even now is about $10 million.”

The newest proposed reductions totaled $4,104,964 and included personnel reductions of $2,215,500.

Action was taken to approve a change in the student/teacher ratio at the elementary level.  Robin Bullock, deputy superintendent, presented the changes. Currently at the K-1 level the ratio is 18-1 with a cap of 20 students. At the 2-4 grade level, the current cap is 22 and for fifth grade the cap is 25-1. For next year the ratios will increase for K-1 to 22-1, 2-4 grade will change to 24-1 and fifth grade will remain at 25-1. Bullock said the resulting savings for the 2011-12 school year would be $550,000 with the loss of 11 teachers. The board passed a motion to approve with a 5-1 vote.

“This is the hardest one to vote for. I know it’s going to be a half-million dollars. I’ve always been holding high the position of keeping those ratios as we always have for many years. This is the biggest hurt to me personally of everything we have to do,” said board member Wayne Shuffield.

Bullock also presented the proposed hiring schedule, which she said would freeze salaries at the current levels for the upcoming school year. The board unanimously passed a motion approving the action.

“On any of this, it’s not our preferred decision. We want to have the least impact on the quality of education for the students,” said board member Cindy Williams. “We are making across the board adjustment to keep as many positions as possible. This is not what we want to do; it is what we are being faced with.”

In related business, the board also approved a motion reducing the position of safety officer from full time to part time. This was a one-year only position, Bullock said. Williams asked if the action would have any impact on the safety in the district.

“We certainly want to maintain at least one SRO. That is something we have recommended.  With this reduction, the administration believes the safety officer position takes on even more importance. I think it is necessary, especially if we are going to be losing one SRO,” Stewart said. “That full time to part time has to do with the audit required by the state every three years. The year prior to it was a part time position. This year we were doing an audit so the part time went to full time to do the audit. So the safety aspect is not being reduced.”

Additionally the position of assistant athletic director will not be replaced. Bullock said in discussions with the athletic director it was determined that the department will need to be restructured. The recommendation is the creation of a new position of athletic program assistant and eliminating the position of athletic office aide, which will result in about $65,000 savings for the 2011-12 school year. The motion was approved by the board.

Stewart reminded the board president that no action had been taken on the discussions that took place during a lengthy executive session that lasted almost three hours.  A motion was passed to approve the discussed budget transfers and terminations.

In a statement on Tuesday, Stewart confirmed that the board approved the direction of the budget process in meeting the anticipated reductions and stated that there would possibly be 50-60 staff employees affected by personnel reductions.

“We made a lot of difficult decisions tonight that will affect a lot of people. Talk to the staff. Do not put it off any longer than necessary. Our teachers and staff deserve that courtesy and respect to have that conversation as soon as possible,” Shuffield said. “We have a fine staff and no one deserves this.”

Additional board meeting activity included the fourth quarter demographic report from the district demographer outlining anticipated student growth and a review of the effect of the TIRZ on MISD funds presented by Bigbee.

Stewart gave a presentation on the bond and budget, outlining the viability of funding staff and operations of new facilities in the proposed bond, stating that the anticipated student growth would generate the funds needed for the facilities as they come on line.

Contact Rebecca at rebecca.hertz@wninews.com or call 469-517-1451.