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BISD superintendent suggests cost-cutting measures including doubling the amount employees pay for health insurance

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Beaumont Independent School District Beaumont Independent School District
The Beaumont Independent School District Superintendent Thursday announced a number of proposed cost-cutting measures.  Included in Dr. Timothy Chargois suggestions is a reduction in the amount the district contributes to employee health plans.

Other ideas include eliminating after school activities, dropping drivers education and eliminating a college prep program.

The items spelled out Thursday would be in addition to a recently proposed reduction in force.

A BISD spokesperson issued the following news release.

Superintendent to present more unfunded line item cuts to trustees today

The Beaumont Independent School District Board of Trustees will be presented with additional cost-saving considerations tonight by Dr. Timothy Chargois, superintendent of schools. In addition to the recently approved Reduction in Force (RIF) that will take place by the end of this month, Dr. Chargois is reviewing a list of other unfunded line items contributing to a state of financial exigency of school district. One of the considerations to be presented includes ending the district’s longtime practice of paying retiring employees who joined BISD prior to 1996 for up to half their annual salary for accumulated leave days.

The RIF will trim millions dollars from the school district’s $173 million of annual expenditures and help re-establish BISD’s dwindling fund balance that is projected to end this school year at just over $6 million. “We have to make budget cuts in excess of $25 million for the coming school year in order to end the year in the black. Next year, we may have to make additional cuts to help shore up our fund balance and maintain an overall healthy budget,” Dr. Chargois explained. The standard for a recommended fund balance designed for maintaining a school district during disasters as hurricanes or other emergency situations is two to three months of the cost of operating. For BISD, the current recommended fund balance is $28 million to $42 million. Realizing he is sitting in the seat where tough, heart-rendering painful decisions must be made, the superintendent expects the recommendation to the Board of Trustees to stop funding the payment retiring employees’ leave days effective at the end of this month may be unpopular. The decision could impact as many as 350 of the school district’s nearly 3,000 employees and could represent an unfunded cost of about $5 million. However, the district’s existing policy allows for paying retiring employees 50% of their daily rate for accumulated leave time. The limit is up to half their annual salary upon their retirement. The policy does not apply to employees hired after the beginning of 1996 school year.

According to Dr. Chargois, the suggestion of retirement incentives has been discussed. “However, the bottom line is the associated cost would be another unplanned for and unfunded budget item. We have to eliminate as many surprise costs to our budget as possible. To streamline our operations is hurting, but I see no other choice,” he added.

Other line items to be discussed at today’s 6 p.m. budget hearing/special meeting include: Reducing the district’s contribution to employee health plans to $131 per month. (Currently, BISD pays $460 per month toward employees’ health insurance.) This action would cut more than $3 million from the 2014-2015 budget. It would raise an employee’s contribution from $69 to $200. BISD would still contribute $330 per month toward each employee’s health insurance and the new contribution amount would be well over the minimum required by law. Eliminating busing for after school programs and activities for an estimated savings of $1 million. Eliminating driver’s education, Cradles ‘N Cribs, AVID (college prep program) and other program underwritings would save the district more than $1.6 million. Reducing other service areas, including overtime, travel, field trips, testing and the extended sick leave program could save nearly $5 million more.

These considerations will be discussed at tonight’s meeting. Trustees are considering and deciding about budget cuts that will allow the district to operate most efficiently and effectively within the revenue funding available for the coming fiscal year. Despite the budget cuts and the lack of a salary raise this year, BISD’s average teacher salary at $48,935 is still higher than any school district in Southeast Texas. The current fiscal year ends June 30, 2014.

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