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Aledo City Council

Budgetary concerns weigh heavy

Primary election looms


After months of discussion and pleas to Aledo’s state representatives in Austin for school funding, the reality of the monetary burden facing Aledo ISD and schools across the state loomed as a dark cloud over the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Feb. 19.

“Because schools across the state didn’t get additional funding from the state legislature in 2023, it’s very serious,” warned Aledo superintendent Dr. Susan Bohn. “I’ve told the staff - and I’ve talked to every single one of them – to say that I would love to tell you that we’re going to take care of it all up here, that they don’t have to worry about it, and they can tend to the important work they do with children every day. But the truth is, that it’s serious and it's dire.”

Heading into the 2023 legislative session the state of Texas held approximately a $38 billion surplus. Roughly 10 percent of that surplus was earmarked to increase funding for public education across the state for the next two years, allowing the Republican-led legislature in both the State House and Senate to pass sweeping property tax reform.

While between $4-$6 billion was earmarked by the legislature for additional public education funding, the legislative session came and went without the legislature passing any laws to distribute those funds to schools across the Lone Star state. 

With funding still tied up in Austin, Governor Greg Abbott called four special sessions before the Christmas holiday to provide more time for the legislature to pass a law. However, school funding ended up being held hostage by the State House in order to force an up vote on a school choice voucher program as part of Abbott’s agenda. Without the additional funding, schools across the state are forced to operate in 2024 and 2025 on 2017 funds. 

“It’s a bi-annual budget, which means it’s two years before we might see relief,” Bohn explained to a room full of Aledo ISD parents. “It’s completely due to the fact that we did not receive additional funding from the state to run our schools. It’s very, very hard for us. It’s difficult. We know what you all expect for your children to have. We know the exceptional experiences that we want to give. 

“I am a parent too, as we all are up here. And there’s just no way that those will not be impacted by what’s about to happen.”

What is about to happen, is the administration is having to find ways to cut back the cost associated with operating the district. The board has already made the unsavory decision to adopt a deficit budget. However, as costs continue to rise as record-high inflation impacts the Lone Star State, difficult decisions lay ahead as the administration is forced to cut funding to a number of programs across the district. 

The district has already cut $1.1 million from the current 2023-24 school year budget utilizing a sweeping 10 percent reduction in non-staff operating costs. With the district experiencing 188.95 percent increase in fuel costs, a 55.53 percent increase in utility bills, and a staggering 329.43 percent increase in insurance costs due to inflation since the 2019-20 school year, cuts to non-staff related items is no longer enough when 80 percent of the budgetary costs are staff related.

While no decisions have been made as of yet, according to a district-wide email sent out by the board on Tuesday, Feb. 20, the administration must find another $3.8 million in cuts before the start of the 2024-25 school year. Items outlined as potential cuts include:

  • Deeper cuts to department and operating budgets
  • Larger class sizes on average
  • Reducing staffing through attrition
  • Reducing instructional support for teachers
  • Reducing academic supports/interventions and extensions for students
  • Altering transportation services
  • Reducing professional learning opportunities for staff
  • Reducing staff travel for student activities and staff development
  • Freezing staff salaries
  • Reducing staff work calendars
  • Reducing contests, events, competitions, and student travel
  • Reducing the number of academic and extracurricular programs

“If you’ve been here the last couple of years, you know that we’ve added things like art at the elementary schools. We’ve added girls powerlifting, and wrestling. We’ve added dance. We’ve added a lot of opportunities for children at school,” Bohn lamented. “We’re going to have to stop adding. We will not be able to afford to ensure that we can continue to add those things as places for students to fit in, find what they love to do, and excel at school. 

“You’ll be getting communication from us. Our staff will be getting communication from us. That way you’ll know how your student might be impacted along with you all, and our staff in the coming years. 

“It’s a direct result of who represents us in Austin. We have a voice. We don’t vote like we should in the primary elections. So, we are asking you to do that - to make sure that there are people in Austin who are willing to fund your Aledo schools so that the experiences that your kids have there can continue.”

Oh, irony

On a night of cautionary warnings related to looming budget cuts that may potentially impact extracurricular programs across the district, several Aledo High School students were in attendance for the board meeting to recognize Aledo’s strategic partners for their support. Students representing Bearcat football, Ladycat softball, FFA, photography, and yearbook among others took the opportunity to thank the partners for all their efforts to support these programs. 

2023 bond election update

A pair of significant updates involving Lynn McKinney Elementary School were also made during the meeting. The first of which was related to the completion of the roof of the building coming over the next few days. 

The second announcement was to acknowledge Heather Street as the new principal for LMES when it opens in August 2024. Currently the principal at Walsh Elementary, the search for Street’s successor will begin in short order.


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