Following a lengthy school board meeting and closed session Monday night, the Blanco ISD school board voted on two measures: The first accepted the resignations of multiple teachers, and the second approved some new contracts for the district.
At the end of the night, one message was clear: the board was no longer in a position where they'd have to cut 17 jobs to keep the district's budget.
Blanco ISD Superintendent Buck Ford spoke with KVUE's Jason Puckett after the meeting Monday. He clarified that the school board had approved the removal of one teaching position but added that 12 other teachers had willingly taken retirement packages. In total, that means 13 teachers won't be returning to Blanco ISD for the 2017-2018 school year and Ford said they have no plans to hire or post job openings in the immediate future.
"They chose to resign," Ford said, "but it's going to effect their programs. Those instructional slots have to be absorbed by other teachers."
Ford said that it was not an easy decision for the school board to make. They were essentially backed into a corner, he said, due to funding removal in September of this year.
The funding in question is almost $720,000 that the county has relied on since 2006. That's when the Texas Legislature lowered property taxes statewide but created a funding program to make sure school districts didn't suffer.
In 2011, the legislature voted to remove that program, called the "Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction" (ASATR) and required it be completely phased out by Sept. 1,2017.
Ford said the board initially came up with three tiers to make up for the lost $720,000 ranging from an aggressive plan that would have removed 17 positions to the "least invasive" plan that would only remove one position. Their decision Monday was to go the "least invasive" route, which Ford said will put their district budget in the positive with a buffer going forward.
Ford added the decision was an necessary but unfortunate response required by the removal of funding from the state level that put them "at the edge of a cliff."
"We're not in as bad a position as some other districts that I know are losing more ASATR funding," Ford said. "In fact, going into next year after what we did [Monday] night, we're going to be in a good position."
Ford expressed his frustration that this funding cut and need for cutting positions came in his last year before retirement, but said he believed the school board and leaders did the best that could be done with a bad hand and to ensure that their district wouldn't wind up in a similar situation down the line.
"Once we have a solid financial base, we can start working on morale again and what we need to turn it around," he said. "This is a beautiful district. It's a wonderful district. The people here, the kids here are beautiful. I've been here for 21 years. I've hated that this happened, but everyone has had a voice in this, everyone has been engaged...we did the best we could, spending hours and hours going through all this. I believe it's reached a resolution."