101 ways for Texas schools to save money; Strayhorn unveils belt tightening tips

Realizing that school districts are caught in budgetary straits similar to those currently facing state government, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today released a new study to help school districts trim costs entitled “Balancing the Budget: 101 Ideas for Cutting Costs and Maximizing Revenues.” The report is a compilation of the best recommendations gleaned from more than 10 years of Texas School Performance Reviews conducted by the comptroller’s office. “My goal is to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom, with teachers and students, where it belongs,” Strayhorn said. “I know these ideas I am presenting today will help districts increase the amount of money they can spend in the classroom’because they have already worked all over Texas.” The comptroller’s office has conducted 87 reviews since their inception in 1991, recommending $730 million in net savings to Texas school districts. Among Strayhorn’s recommendations’and some examples of where they’ve already worked in the state are: ‘ Freeze hiring on all positions not directly linked to campuses and require a formal justification for filling any positions. Glen Rose ISD saved $768,249 in five years. ‘ Tie campus administrators and support staff directly to the number of students involved. Elgin ISD saved nearly $100,000 in one year alone. ‘ Examine how much money districts spend on outside lawyers and consider in-house counsel. Austin ISD saved nearly $400,000. ‘ Conduct energy audits like those offered by the State Energy Conservation Office, a branch of the comptroller’s office. Fort Bend ISD saved $135,000 a year. ‘ Eliminate warehouses where possible. Tyler ISD is projected to save $400,000 over five years simply by consolidating its warehouses. ‘ Join with county, city or other school districts to collect taxes more efficiently. Galveston ISD saved $180,000 in the first year alone this way. ‘ Review insurance needs annually and seek alternatives. Killeen ISD saved $100,000 in the first year of instituting this policy. ‘ Beef up truancy programs’more students in school every day increases state funding. San Antonio ISD gained a net of $600,000’and educational benefits to the students. One of Strayhorn’s nine statutory public education responsibilities as Texas Comptroller includes TSPR reviews. TSPR teams assess districts’ performance in various areas’from academic and financial performance to personnel management and food services’to look for ways to cut waste and make sure schools are maximizing dollars. The full report can be found on the Comptroller’s Web site at http://www.window.state.tx.us/tspr/cutting/.

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