First look at the HISD budget

We’re up to $500 million in cuts. But we still don’t have any details.

The multibillion-dollar question of how Houston ISD intends to balance its budget went largely unanswered Thursday night, with district administrators revealing few specifics about job or program cuts as they unveiled a long-awaited spending plan for 2024-25.

HISD Superintendent Mike Miles said the district will move forward with slashing over $500 million, equivalent to about 20 percent of the district’s spending in the 2023-24 school year, due to an upcoming budget squeeze, but he only gave broad outlines of which departments would see the reductions. HISD likely will need to eliminate a significant number of jobs and scale back initiatives to trim $500 million next school year.

“We cut a lot of positions in central office and that’s very painful,” Miles said. “Anytime you cut, they’re real people, real jobs.”

HISD released its budget plan to the media Thursday afternoon at the start of the first and only scheduled board meeting about the budget, which trustees expect to vote on next month. However, destructive winds and power outages at HISD’s central office forced board members to cancel the workshop before Chief Financial Officer Jim Terry could present the budget to trustees. Miles spoke to the media prior to the meeting and release of the budget plan Thursday afternoon.

HISD is already behind its typical schedule for detailing its spending plans for the upcoming year. By mid-May last year, HISD had held four public budget workshops to explain plans to the board and gauge community members’ feedback, district records show. District officials plan to reschedule Thursday’s canceled meeting for May 23.

The delay in releasing detailed information to the public concerns elected trustee Sue Deigaard, especially with drastic cuts planned. Deigaard and the rest of HISD’s elected school board technically remain in place, though all of their power has been temporarily transferred to a state-appointed board of managers as part of sanctions against the district.

“It’s easier for the distrust to grow if enough people don’t understand why this is happening,” Deigaard said.


HISD plans to offset next year’s deficit, in part, by selling $80 million in property and dipping into $130 million of its “rainy day” fund. That would leave $800 million in reserves, which Miles said is a healthy level to maintain the district’s strong bond rating.

The key unanswered question, however, is how many positions the district plans to eliminate to save hundreds of millions of dollars. In early May, HISD terminated over a hundred wraparound specialists who serve students living in poverty, but those cuts likely will only save the district around $10 million.

See here and here for the background. I don’t have the brain space for this right now, so I’ll just note that the much-reviled elected Board of Trustees had its act together on presenting its budget to its stakeholders a lot more than the current bunch has. Make of that what you will. You can read the budget plan, it’s embedded in the story. I hope we get some actual details in the coming week.

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