Waiting on the Texas Legislature didn’t make sense for Fort Worth ISD.

Lawmakers came down to the wire and failed to make any significant changes to school funding, which initially appeared to get a boost because of the state’s nearly $33 billion surplus.

When’s the next budget meeting?

The Fort Worth ISD school board is scheduled to meet for a budget workshop meeting at 5:30 p.m. June 13 at the Teaching & Learning Center, 1050 Bridgewood Drive.

Fort Worth ISD’s 2023-24 budget is moving forward without betting on any changes from the state. Officials plan to shift some money to fund major purchases that likely would have been covered through a potential bump in state funding.

“It was really disappointing to go through an entire session and know that there’s such a big surplus in the state and yet no attention to our teachers around the state who are already having a really hard time post-pandemic,” Superintendent Angélica Ramsey told the Fort Worth Report.

Fort Worth ISD expects to have a budget deficit — or spend more than the revenue it receives — regardless of what legislators ultimately decide in potential special sessions.

The proposed 2023-24 budget calls for more than $845.6 million in expenditures and $799.2 million in revenue — creating a more than $46.4 million deficit.

Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, Fort Worth ISD’s chief financial officer, presented a plan in late May to the school board for covering the excess spending.

“We would have to look at our rainy day fund, our reserves, to cover that deficit,” she told trustees.

The district expects to start the next school year with more than $341 million in reserves. Dipping into that pot of money would lower it to more than $294.6 million.

Arrieta-Candelaria emphasized to the school board that she feels comfortable that the district has enough in reserves to cover the anticipated deficit. 

School finance organizations, such as the Texas Association of School Business Officials, recommend districts have enough money in their reserves to fund at least 60 operating days. The state’s financial accountability system recommends at least 75 days.

Fort Worth ISD’s reserves can keep the district running for nearly 148 days. With the deficit dip, the district would have enough funds to operate for almost 127 days on reserves.

Two one-time purchases and proposed raises for all employees fueled part of the deficit. Administrators looked for other funding in the budget to cover part of the cost for new textbooks and laptops.

Officials plan to spend nearly $2.2 million from the district’s federal stimulus funds to cover a funding gap for textbooks. The district also plans to cover part of the new laptops purchase with $750,000 collected from fees for lost computers.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email hello@fortworthreport.org.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....