SAN ANTONIO – The South San Antonio Independent School District is facing major financial issues and discussing several options to potentially solve a multi-million dollar deficit.
The district held a special meeting on Monday to let people know that SSISD is facing a reported $12 million deficit. Officials also said during the meeting that SSISD has seen a 20 percent decline in student enrollment in the past ten years and is operating below capacity.
Tom Cummins, executive director for the South San American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said they are aware of the deficit but feel drastic measures like consolidating or closing schools should not be taken.
“We’re opposed to closing schools. We are very much in favor of neighborhood schools because each school is an integral part of that community,” said Cummins. “Our district doesn’t seem to realize that they are in competition. And if you’re in competition, you go out and bring those students back to the school district. They do not have a program to do that, while charter schools do have one to recruit students.”
In January, South San Antonio ISD voted to keep four schools open despite a recommendation to close those campuses by superintendent Henry Yzaguirre. The schools in question were Athens Elementary, Kindred Elementary, Kazen Middle school, and West Campus High School.
During Monday’s special meeting, district officials noted “spending on reopening campuses” and “maintaining aging facilities” as some of the reasons for the deficit. Cummins acknowledged those are legitimate concerns but wants the district to also seek more money from the Texas legislature.
“We look towards the legislature to fund the money to rehabilitate those schools and draw the students back in. West Campus is a growing entity, so eventually, it will fill those buildings which are unoccupied at the moment. However, again. We go back to the district needing to go out and get the money and be proactive about it,” said Cummins.
Cummins also wants the district to consider a tax reauthorization election.
“If it was passed by the community, it would bring in approximately $7 million a year, which is 10 percent of the current budget that they have. $5 million of that would be from the state. So the burden on the local taxpayer would be very small,” said Cummins. “Property taxes would have gone up approximately 5 to $7 a month per household.”
Another option discussed to reduce the deficit was declaring financial exigency and essentially eliminating positions district-wide or reducing all employee salaries by 15 percent.
The district reiterated on Tuesday that no final decisions have been made, and SSISD will have another meeting on March 6 at 6 p.m. at Shepard Middle School to get more community input.
Alexis Castillo, SSISD Dir. of Communications and Marketing, released the following statement to KSAT on Tuesday:
South San Antonio ISD has not made any formal recommendations as to what the next school year will entail. However, we are having discussions with our community and our Board of Trustees about potential options.
We hope to discuss this further at our March regular called board meeting, where the information will be presented to the Board of Trustees for a final decision.