District Finance Update

DeSoto ISD Proactively Unpacking Enrollment and Re-strategizing Financial Future
Posted on 03/28/2024
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The DeSoto Independent School District (ISD) administration presented an early proposal to the Board of Trustees during the Monday, March 4, 2024, workshop regarding several aspects of the district’s financial position and strategy.

Enrollment and Revenue

School districts across the state are experiencing significant reductions in their operating budgets due to:

  • reduced legislative funding,

  • declining enrollment,

  • increased inflation,

  • growing compensation expectations to align with increased cost of living standards,

  • competing for staff talent,

  • and refined operations to compete in a future-focused, global society.

As a result, districts are engaged in deep assessment of organizational operating costs and expenditures and are reviewing opportunities to present balanced budgets for the upcoming academic year.

DeSoto ISD is no different when it comes to enrollment trends and the resulting impact on the district’s budgets and operations. The district’s current projected revenue for the 2023-2024 school year of roughly $59.3 million is expected to drop by an estimated $2 million as the result of anticipated changes to enrollment and funding.

Since 2017, overall enrollment has decreased by 53 percent—even more significant is the reality that more than 4,500 students zoned to DeSoto are exploring other educational options. Those students would bring more than $35 million to the district to support operational costs for higher-quality educational materials and staffing.

Strategically Shifting for Future Stability

To begin repositioning the district and to address these concerns, administrators have already begun by:

  • reviewing departmental positions, prioritizing campus and instructional staff by right-sizing central administration, resulting in nearly $1 million in savings,

  • brokering a deal for repaying the over-allocation of previous years’ legislative funding due to overestimation of enrollment,

  • implementing and adhering to a staffing formula that more accurately aligns hiring needs and strategy with enrollment,

  • and dramatically reduced spending to demonstrate and practice financial responsibility and conservation.

In addition to the aforementioned operation-based adjustments, the district is also working to rebuild enrollment and recruit families and scholars back to the district by:

  • increasing academic choice programs,

  • increasing community engagement, outreach, and connectedness to build trust and relationships,

  • designing and extending a summer bridge program for scholars as they transition grade bands to support retention,

  • designing specialized marketing strategies to engage families who transitioned out of the district in recent years,

  • and designing proposals for staffing incentives to support the recruitment and retention of high-performing educators.

Compensation and Staffing

A critical aspect of DeSoto ISD’s ability to recruit and retain scholars is its ability to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. In June 2022, under the leadership of DeSoto ISD Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Usamah Rodgers, the district proposed a $6,500 salary increase for every instructional staff member in the district. The Board approved the proposal and went into effect that year.

Understanding the impacts of inflation, the administration proposed four scenarios regarding compensation incentives for district employees which are as follows during the March 4 Board Workshop:

  • $500 teacher retention bonus and a 2% staff raise—$620K in total cost to the district,

  • a teacher step and 2% staff raise—$630K in total cost to the district,

  • a teacher step, a $500 teacher retention bonus, and a $1,000 staff retention bonus—$800K in total cost to the district,

  • and a teacher step, a $1,000 teacher retention bonus, and a $1,000 staff retention bonus--$1,004,000 in total cost to the district.

The initial incentives were proposed to the Board for consideration with the clarification that carry-through would require subsequent additional cuts to the budget, much of which would be yielded from the organization's efforts to right-size its workforce by more tightly adhering to staffing formulas dictated by enrollment.

During the March 19 Board Workshop, the administration proposed the updated considerations to the Board for review:

  • introduction of a one-day remote work day for central staff

  • paid PLC and training for campus staff and personal instructional planning time

  • a teacher step and $500 retention bonus OR a teacher step and a $1,000 retention bonus

Repositioning for the Right Results

Part of the district’s proactive financial planning includes the review and right-sizing of staffing to more closely align with enrollment. The district outlined and proposed a streamlined staffing plan during the March 19, 2024, board workshop.

Since the pandemic, schools have been navigating a new normal. To pace change, DeSoto ISD has ramped up resources and professional development for its teachers; created more robust and competitive academic options for scholars; and applied innovative strategies developed through a network of experts to provide strategic resolution to the district’s challenges—all with the intent to design a brighter future while managing severe budget constraints.

The operational shifts are taking place in tandem with leadership in focus groups and listening tours throughout the district to understand stakeholder experiences and locate areas of opportunity. The goal is to ensure DeSoto ISD is financially solvent and has a network and culture of camaraderie and support that creates enrichment and excitement for students’ success.

The DeSoto ISD administration will present a follow-up to the district’s budget planning and financial strategy at the Monday, April 8, 2024, board workshop.