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H-E-B ISD Officials Ready To Handle Shortfall Without Layoffs

By Sharrie Williams, CBS 11 News
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A math teacher uses a white board to explain a sum to students. (credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A math teacher uses a white board to explain a sum to students. (credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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HURST (CBSDFW.COM) – Unlike the majority of school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, the Hurst Euless Bedford ISD won’t have to lay off a single employee to cover what officials expect will be a $15 million shortfall.

Gene Buinger, superintendent of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, said his district began aggressively discussing the lack of school funding nearly a decade ago.

“We saw the state wasn’t addressing this issue,” Buigner said. “They were kicking the can down the road so to speak.”

H.E.B, however, isn’t immune to the problem.

District officials expect a $15 million shortfall next year and need to eliminate 50 positions, but no one is panicking. All of the cuts will be made through attrition. Seventy employees have already declared their intention to retire or leave.

In the last 10 years, the district has created a culture in which staff members are more energy-conscious. After personnel, energy costs are the second largest expense of any school district’s budget.

H.E.B uses more energy-efficient lightbulbs. It also built water wells at its two high schools to use rainwater to irrigate the playing fields, rather than use the city’s costly purified water.

The district even changed the start time of school in order to use fewer buses, slashing fuel and transportation costs.

These policies even trickle to refrigerators: If a teacher wants a fridge in their classroom, they have to pick up the electric bill, which runs $40 a year.

Buinger says the ‘fridge fee’ wasn’t popular when first implemented. But with lawmakers including $9.3 billion in cuts to public education in the first draft of the state budget, teachers don’t mind picking up the tab.

Buigner said the teachers see the money the district is saving, which is being used to keep their colleagues – and themselves – on the payroll.

“Very few of our staff complain about it because they know it’s made the difference,” he said.

The changes have saved the district millions. In 2000, the district’s cash fund balance was nearly $25 million. Ten years later that amount ballooned to $70 million.

Because of all the district’s penny-pinching efforts, not a single teacher or staff worker will be laid off, Buinger said.

Teacher Heather Rountree said having job security allows her to focus on her students.

“I get to go everyday and teach,” Rountree said. “I don’t have to worry about my job. I’m not losing sleep over it.”

Buinger will present his budget plan to the board this weekend. In it, he is calling for $5 million in cuts to cover the 15 million dollar shortfall. None of cuts involve personnel. The other $10 million will come from the fund balance.

The 82nd Legislative Session is currently underway, and officials expect budget discussions to continue through the summer. Use our interactive map to track your lawmaker’s movements.

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