Brenham ISD’s deficit to close out the last fiscal year is larger than initially expected.
At Monday’s Brenham School Board meeting, during action to approve a budget amendment to finalize the 2022-23 Fiscal Year, Chief Financial Officer Thad Lasater informed trustees that while the district received $3.3 million more in local tax revenue than initially budgeted for, state and federal revenues were below what was anticipated by $4.8 million. The numbers were based on a near-final summary of finance received on September 13th.
The district finished the year with $49.2 million in revenues and $55 million in expenditures. When asked what the school district’s deficit is right now, Lasater said that number is $5.8 million.
Superintendent Dr. Tylor Chaplin gave a breakdown of the reasons for the shortfall, which include the district not hitting enrollment/average daily attendance numbers that were projected at the start of the budget year and having to account for several purchases and costs during the year that were unbudgeted.
In addition to school transportation and security purchases, items that were mentioned during previous discussion on the budget deficit in July included the purchase of new weight room equipment and substitute contract fees that were higher than what was originally accounted for. Dr. Chaplin also noted that ESSER funds were expended as they were supposed to, but they did not offset the loss of revenue.
Update @ 8:30 a.m. 9/25: Lasater told KWHI that school district expenditures saw little variance between the projected numbers in July and August and the final numbers in September, going from an estimated $55 million in July and $55.4 million in August to a final total of $55 million in September. Projected revenue figures of $51.2 million in July and $51.7 million in August compared to final year-end revenue of $49.2 million in September. Lasater said the main reason for the deficit growing larger is the school district receiving less state funding than anticipated.
The school district’s $60.8 million budget for the 2023-24 Fiscal Year was approved with the expectation of a $4.5 million revenue shortfall.
The news of the larger deficit came as a shock to trustees. Because of the budget situation, Board President Natalie Lange asked for future budget amendments to be put on the regular board agenda instead of the routine consent agenda, while trustee Archer Archer asked for a budget update to be provided monthly.
With personnel costs being a primary driver in the budget, Dr. Chaplin and Lasater reiterated that the school district is reviewing every position. Lange said “everything has to be scrutinized,” including those positions and future purchases. Trustee Kelvin Raven called this situation “embarrassing.”
Trustee Tommie Sullivan said he was worried about the potential impact to teachers and them having to deal with larger class sizes. Trustee Bonnie Brinkmeyer said the school district needs to find a way to build regular student attendance and that she wants to see monthly updates on that. Archer said, “We’re not going in the right direction” and that the district needs to be more critical with its spending.
Lange said the board can hope for help in the Texas Legislature’s upcoming special session, which has a target date of October, but it cannot count on it. Trustee Kyle Hafner said this is “unacceptable” and that Brenham ISD needs to “reinvent the wheel,” adding “There’s not going to be much relying on anybody else.”