Desoto ISD Special Called Meeting Focuses On District Cuts To 17 Positions


DESOTO – At Monday’s Desoto ISD Special Called meeting on July 3 and the meeting held on June 30, the 2023-24 budget was the topic of discussion.

The June 30 meeting agenda noted consideration and possible approval of the adoption of the 2023-2024 budgets for General Operating, Child Nutrition, and Debt Service.

On July 3, another Special meeting was called for the consideration and possible approval of a resolution to responsibly transition out positions slated to close for the 2023-2024 School Year, which DeSoto ISD Board President Chasiti McKissic presented.

McKissic said during the meeting, “We understand we have been faced with a difficult situation due to the financial constraints; we as a district had to make some difficult decisions, specifically Dr. Rodgers, and adjusting some positions that were slated within the district, so today the resolution is to decide to extend the employment of the individuals impacted by the adjustment in the budget.”

Superintendent Dr. Usamah Rodgers agreed there were some difficult decisions to be made.

She explained that there was a significant reduction when she originally proposed the staffing formulas, but there would have been minimal impact on staff. After an appeal to the state and the settle up, they were forced to look at the budget in a way that did impact employees.

*A settle-up = actual earnings – payments made during the school year. Settle-up is the reconciliation between the payments made to districts and charter schools and the actual earnings of districts and charter schools. Settle-up occurs in a two-step process after the close of the state fiscal year.

She also noted that regarding the resolution, the plan was to ask the board to have the affected employees continue with the district since, initially, it was “not the plan to impact any employees, but to address the shortfall through the staffing formula and through attrition,” Rodgers said. “However, additional cuts were required, which brings us to this difficult place.”

There were also some questions about the fact that it was on June 15 that Superintendent Rodgers was told the budget had to be reduced more than it was. “So, on returning to work, I began to work with the team to go through the list.” She noted because there was so much discussion, she believed it was best to decide on the conclusion of where the budget landed before speaking to employees so she could give all the factual information about the scenario regarding the timing of the approved budget and the employees’ short notice of their end date with the district.

The motion to approve the resolution was made “to continue the employment of the select group of employees,” through the end of July, made by Place 5 Vice President Trustee Abe Cooper. McKissic seconded the motion.

Place 3 Karen Lacey abstained from the vote. She said she was conflicted because she did not have the information for a yes or no vote allowing employees to remain with the district whose positions had ended.

However, that was not a reason for abstaining, so Lacey was told to vote, at which point she voted no.

Other Trustees in attendance voted yes, along with Cooper and McKissic.

Regarding the two meetings, Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones, Communication, Marketing, and Engagement for DeSoto ISD, sent information via email regarding the outcome of the two meetings.

“During the Friday, June 30, 2023, Special Called Meeting of the DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees, the Board approved the 2023-2024 operating budget, which includes the general fund, child nutrition fund, and debt services fund totaling $76,989,421.”
Broken down, the general operating fund of $56,745,521 includes:

$37,711,139 for instruction and instructional resources

$832,933 for security

$1,809,623 for technology

The debt services fund was approved for $16,317,824. Additionally, the child nutrition fund, which is not funded through local tax dollars, was approved for $3,926,075.

“As the recent legislative session yielded no additional support for school systems, educators and institutions continue to monitor the special legislative session for potential impact on school funding,” the email explained.

“School funding is partially based on projected and/or estimated average daily attendance (ADA). Districts are given a dollar amount per student per day of attendance to cover school system operating costs. DeSoto ISD is also experiencing a similar impact because declining enrollment and average daily attendance has had to make significant reductions to the upcoming academic year budget.”

Throughout the year, Blackmon-Jones pointed out the district has worked hard to reduce expenditures by:

Adhering to campus staffing allocations based on the staffing formula eliciting roughly $3M in budget savings.

Closing positions through attrition in central staff at a valuation of $1M;

Not filling vacant positions in central staff (the district will only backfill in critical areas if an opening arises) and reviewing non-contract employee staffing to increase alignment with budget projection at a valuation of $1M;

Limiting employee travel; and

Re-evaluating and re-negotiating contracted services.

It was noted the items referenced above have yielded more than $16M in savings to the district, supporting the district’s strategic preparation for the upcoming academic year.

“DeSoto ISD values every employee and has strategically reviewed all aspects of district operations to assess and develop additional opportunities to reduce costs for the upcoming academic year,” the email read.

The items which could be included were budgetary function reductions, streamlining of the district’s workforce with primary emphasis on attrition and adherence to staffing formulas to appropriately support the realization of the district’s board goals and strategic initiatives; and restructuring district expenditures to support the attainment of the district’s board goals and strategic initiatives.

“DeSoto ISD desires to appropriately position the district for a viable financial future while maintaining a laser focus on the educational and organizational experiences of students, staff members and their families,” Blackmon-Jones’ email concluded.