On August 18, trustees passed the 2003-04 RISD budget. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How much is the 2003-04 RISD budget?

Total operating expenditures are projected to be $263,773,638.

How are the dollars divided up?

65.9 percent – Instruction; 3.1 percent – General Administration; 10.2 percent – Plant Operations, Construction, Technology and Community Services; and 20.9 percent – Recapture.

Debt service on bonds is not included in the operating budget. Instruction covers people such as teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, librarians and paraprofessionals. General administration includes central office staff. People frequently assume there is pork in general administration. Even if we eliminated all GA, it would cover recapture.

How much do we spend per student?

RISD projects revenues of $6,485 per weighted average student in 2003-04. $1,353 will be returned to the state as recapture, leaving $5,132 for our local use.

Is $5,132 adequate?

RISD has devised all kinds of ways to maintain the quality of instruction within the current budget formula, but this amount leaves us no room for natural movements like competitive pay raises, student growth, new schools and the new accountability demands of No Child Left Behind legislation.

Is RISD financial management prudent?

Five years ago trustees decided to pare spending down to only the amount the state allows us to keep. This was arguably the best decision we ever made. It’s taken four years to reduce spending to these limits, but the payoff is in our operating mindset. By balancing the budget to only what the state allows us to keep, we spend a minimum amount of energy bemoaning recapture and most of our time considering the best ways to produce the highest quality educational product at the most efficient service delivery cost.

In fact, our rating agencies concur on the wisdom of this philosophy. Standard & Poor’s graded our bonds AA, the highest rating for any Texas public school system. We are one of only three school districts in the state to receive Moody’s Aa1 rating. This allows us to save millions of taxpayer dollars in interest expense on our bonds.

Do you have any other funding sources?

Yes. Last year, $15.5 million in alternative funds helped bilingual education, reading initiatives, vocational programs, special education, technology, family and after-school programs.

What’s the future for the optional homestead exemption?

At present we are one of only five DFW school districts still providing an optional homestead exemption. Because of this 15 percent exemption, RISD has the 7th lowest tax bill for homeowners among all 29 DFW school districts.

However, recapture may force RISD to reduce or eliminate the optional exemption as early as next year. Every effort has been made to keep the exemption intact because it is our last remaining resource.