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HISD adopts its budget

No tax increase, at least not at this time.

Students in the Houston Independent School District can expect to see larger class sizes and fewer teachers, librarians and elective courses next year under the spending plan that trustees approved Thursday.

The $1.6 billion budget reflects a state funding shortfall affecting districts across Texas, although for HISD, the financial picture ended up better than predicted.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier and board president Paula Harris had suggested over the last several months that raising the property tax rate was a possibility to balance the district’s budget.

But in the end, district officials decided to leave the tax rate alone and not dip into savings despite pleas from the district’s largest teachers association that more revenue could save hundreds of jobs and programs.

“We have an option to get more money. We’ve chosen not to do it,” Andy Dewey, the vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said.

Due to the way the Legislature will be distributing the budget cuts to school districts, HISD will take a bigger hit for the school year starting in 2012 than it will for this year. As such, the trustees voted to bank the extra money they now have from cutting more than they needed to this year until then. As I said before, I think that’s a reasonable position to take, though I certainly won’t criticize anyone who thinks we should be spending it now to keep more people employed. I would suggest that if we are going to hold on to this cash and lay off more people than perhaps we really needed to, the goal for the next year should be to balance the budget without any further job losses. If that means a tax rate hike, then so be it. Hair Balls has more.

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