Paradise ISD advances with deficit budget

Paradise ISD board members are looking at an “austere” budget for the coming school year.

While spending has been reduced, PISD’s 2014-2015 budget will be about $213,000 shy of balanced based on the proposal.

During a board meeting Thursday night, trustees also proposed a tax rate of $1.34 and set a public hearing 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 for the community to come and discuss the proposed budget and tax rate.

“Before you is a budget that is very austere,” said Robert Criswell, PISD interim Superintendent. “I say austere, but also lean, very lean. Even at that, our expenditures are larger than our revenues.”

According to Criswell, who took the job on an interim basis after Monty Chapman resigned last spring, the bulk of the deficit comes from increases in salaries. He said some vacated positions have gone dark in the district, but necessary spending in other areas wiped out those gains.

Maintenance and operations spending is down 10.44 percent while total expenditures are up 2.75 percent.

“This is a deficit budget. Never in my career have I recommended a deficit budget, but we have one this year,” Criswell said. “That is just the nature of the beast and hopefully we can overcome this at some point in time.”

The proposed $1.34 tax rate includes $1.04 for maintenance and operations and 30 cents for debt service.

Criswell said the district’s financial shortcomings are not untenable and the district still has options moving forward.

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Paradise School Board reconfigures meal service

The Paradise school board is cooking up a new plan for the district’s cafeterias.

Trustees Monday night approved a bid from Aramark to provide food services for the district, starting this fall.

Interim Superintendent Robert Criswell said it would be five years before the district sees a profit – but over the years, food services has regularly run a deficit, so almost anything would be an improvement.

In the first year, expenditures with Aramark are projected to be $498,062, while revenue through meal purchases is expected to be $391,125 – a loss of $106,937. The losses are projected to decrease annually until year five, when a net $307 profit is expected.

“We’ve historically lost $100,000-plus on this thing forever, so this isn’t out of line,” Criswell said. “We’re not going to get rich off this thing, but if we can break even, it’ll be all right.”

Paradise ISD plans to partner with neighboring Boyd ISD to make it more economically feasible for both districts.

Criswell said he thought the loss could be decreased if more students choose to participate in the program.

“I think it may be better than that by the time we get more kids eating,” he said. “We’ve got to have more participation if we’re going to try to make things break even.”

Criswell said all current food service employees will get to choose whether they become an Aramark employee or remain employees of the school district, but no one should lose their job.

“I think it’s time to try something new,” Criswell said.

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Paradise ISD changes class rank policy

Paradise School Board followed the lead of many other local school districts, approving a new class ranking policy Monday night.

Chief Financial Officer Mac Edwards, who is a former PHS principal, said the changes will put the race for class rank on a more level playing field.

“The way the policy reads right now … it kind of punishes kids for taking electives, it punishes their GPAs (grade point averages),” he said.

The plan approved Monday night will base class rank on four core classes – English, math, science and social studies – plus a foreign language. This will affect only incoming freshmen.

“So basically, you’re taking out electives to determine class rank,” said Board President Homer Mundy.

Earlier in the meeting Edwards had explained that it’s difficult to compare elective classes head-to-head, which is why basing class rank on the core classes is more fair.

“We’re not pioneers in this,” he said. “Other districts have adopted something similar.”

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Paradise Intermediate gets new principal

Paradise Intermediate School will have new leadership next year, as school counselor Kristin Gage will take over as principal.

The school board held a special meeting Monday night to make the selection. They unanimously agreed to give her a two-year contract.

Gage has been in education for 19 years, 15 of them in PISD.

The district began searching for a new intermediate school principal earlier this month when current principal Terry McCutchen announced his resignation.

According to Superintendent Monty Chapman and McCutchen, he was leaving PISD for personal reasons and had not yet lined up another job.

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Paradise school board takes no action on superintendent’s contract

The Paradise school board met behind closed doors for more than four hours Monday night, discussing Superintendent Monty Chapman’s evaluation and possible contract renewal.

Emerging from the session, they took no action on Chapman’s contract.

The only item they acted on was to buy two welders and a plotter for the school’s ag program.

Board members were given superintendent evaluation forms in the December board meeting so they could discuss and evaluate Chapman’s performance at their January session.

After last year’s evaluation, trustees voted 5-2 to extend Chapman’s three-year contract. It was extended by unanimous vote in 2011 and 2012, and the 2012 vote also provided a 3 percent raise beginning in 2013.

Chapman’s current annual salary is $111,448, which places him in the middle of the pack compared to other superintendents in Wise County.

Boyd ISD, the closest in student population to Paradise, pays its superintendent Ted West $90,000 annually.

Salaries

IN OTHER NEWS

  • Chapman reported district expenditures and expected revenue has improved because of high student attendance. This dropped the earlier calculated expenditure deficit from $180,545 to $56,021.
    The new calculations are based on the first full semester of the 2013-14 school year.
    • For school board appreciation month, board members were honored by faculty and students with gift baskets and specially made videos.

    Chapman also gave each of the board members certificates of appreciation from the Texas Association of School Boards.

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