The Killeen Independent School District budget for the 2013-2014 school year includes $44 million in federal Impact Aid funding. But, in light of possible cuts to military spending, school board candidates on the ballot May 10 are discussing what could happen if Impact Aid diminishes.
The key word is “if.”
Since Killeen ISD can’t control or predict its military student enrollment, Terry Delano said it’s too soon to predict future Impact Aid funding.
Delano, the Killeen ISD board vice president who is running unopposed, said he’s not aware of any immediate concerns about federal funding, but the district should always be planning ahead as it serves the transient community.
“There’s some numbers that we’re concerned about on Fort Hood that could affect our Impact Aid. ... Those are some things we’re looking at going forward,” Delano said at a political forum Monday.
“I talked to the superintendent last week. He thinks we will be fine for next year. The year after, there could be some concerns. It’s just something that we’re going to be watching constantly.”
Impact Aid is federal funds awarded to districts based on the number of students who belong to active-duty military families and students of third-party contractors. The formula grant helps districts make up for lost revenues and additional costs associated with the federal presence of nontaxable federal land and installations.
The district expects the Impact Aid budget for the 2014-2015 school year to remain the same, with $44 million in federal funding. Impact Aid currently makes up about 14 percent of the district’s budget, according to school officials.
“It’s important that we try to maintain that funding from Impact Aid. I’m not looking for anything extra from the federal government,” said Delano, adding he tries to be a good watchdog about taxpayer spending. “I just want to replace what we lose from nontaxable federal land.”
The four candidates who are running for the Place 4 seat shared their views at a forum earlier this week.
If faced with cuts, administrators should look at what other districts in similar situations are doing, Carter suggested.
She said the district should eliminate spending on unnecessary things.
“We have too much waste going on, and I think that’s one of the main things we would look at first,” Carter said.
When cutting programs or staff, Carter said districts should consider if it’s something teachers really need, use or want.
Eneli said districts should talk to teachers and administrators to see what recommendations they have if faced with budget shortfalls.
She suggested an approach similar to that taken by Copperas Cove Independent School District. Cove ISD is facing a multiyear, tiered reduction of about $16 million in Impact Aid for the upcoming school year.
“Someone is making the decision in Washington as to this Impact Aid,” Eneli said. “We should definitely have our politicians and our leaders out there lobbying and ensuring that if something needs to be rewritten ... let’s do it.”
Moore said if the number of military dependents fluctuates and causes a drop in Impact Aid, the district will have to make sure it has the proper priorities.
“The first thing we always have to remember is public school is for teachers and children,” he said. “We have to take care of the classroom teacher.”
Rainwater said his solution to dealing with potential budget cuts is to look at schools with the highest general fund expenditures per student enrolled.
“One of the things that I’m curious about ... (is) which schools cost more per capita to operate than other schools,” Rainwater said.
“With the shifting population of growth in Killeen, it might be time to start looking at which schools we have to close to maintain a more effective way to operate the schools.”
Earlier this year, the district announced its plans to close Fowler Elementary School in May, which will save the district $5 million in operating costs.
He said balancing budgets is “incredibly complex,” and the district should plan for the future.
“(Superintendent Robert) Muller, by the way, when he went through (budget cuts) two years ago was incredible and did a great job with the budget,” Rainwater said.