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School districts tightening belts Waxahachie: $2.5 million shortfall

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The Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE - The rising costs of public education have hit Ellis County property owners where it hurts most, and at the same time, has school districts tightening their belts.

According to districts in the county, the state's 'Robin Hood' school finance plan, a system where richer school districts redistribute some of their property tax wealth to poorer ones, is in dire need of overhauling, and its also causing the biggest dilemma many of the local districts now face.

The Waxahachie Independent School District, fresh off a $48 million bond election defeat, faces a $2.5 million budget shortfall because of a drop in state funding.

'More and more of the cost of education is coming back on local taxpayers and

costs must be cut even further than they have been over the last few years,' said WISD Superintendent Dr. Bobby Parker.

However, according to former Taxpayers Alliance for Good Government Chairman Marshal Evans, the superintendent and Ellis County Central Appraisal Chief Kathy Rodrique once discussed local property values with him, and even said the district must keep values higher to generate more state funding.

Parker and Rodrique would not comment on Evans' recollections.

Despite WISD property values going up, however, the state's share of funding has decreased from $11.4 million in 2002, to $8.9 million in 2003.

Teachers and staff at each WISD campus met with school officials Monday, Feb. 10 to make recommendations on what programs to cut.

'We do not recommend a reduction in force,' Parker said. 'We recommend that we use attrition and better utilization of the staff we have.'

Some of the suggestions Waxahachie High School teachers and staff made were to make class sizes even smaller, from about 20 students a class, to 10, combine certain classes and teachers, freeze pay raises and charge for use on the school's computer server.

Also, the district could start charging athletes a 'pay-to-play' fee of $100, as well as increasing admission costs to the district's athletic contests.

District-wide, staff recommended charging students to ride the bus or selling advertisements on buses and rooftops.

'In the long run, changes must be made at the state and federal levels,' Parker said. 'We can make a difference by contacting our government representatives and sharing our concern. We must take an active stand to put education finance on the agenda for this legislative session.'

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