Crosby Independent School District, a small district in unincorporated Harris County, is still struggling after the recent revelation of severe financial problems. But district officials have a path for moving forward and are getting help from a number of sources, including community members and state lawmakers.

The public wasn’t aware of the extent of the district’s problems until a late August board meeting. At that meeting, Superintendent Scott Davis delivered a report updating trustees and the public on a number of issues involving abuse of short-term loans and a cash flow problem so severe the district would have trouble making payroll. Davis had performed something of an internal audit, though a formal one is underway, and he found his predecessor had made a host of bad financial transactions that left the district short on cash and in debt. He had no choice but to take action.

To stabilize the district for the year, Davis opted to use short-term loans to subsidize cash flow. But with the ultimate problem being the cost of personnel, he drafted a plan to reduce budget expenses by 10 to 20 percent that included layoffs.

As of mid-October, CISD decided on 129 positions that would be cut. This included positions from bus drivers and custodians to teachers. They expect the layoffs to save about $5.2 million in payroll expenses, which will get the district through the end of this year.

Texas Scorecard previously highlighted the work of the CISD community that stepped up after the budget cuts affected post-game cleanup at the stadium.

Code Red—a Facebook group for CISD teachers, parents, and friends—stepped in, deploying 100 volunteers to clean up. After the fact, one member said, “Our community cleaned up after 12,000 people in three minutes. It’s astounding to see the community rally behind the district.”

However, the efforts to help the CISD community didn’t end there.

The day after CISD’s board voted to terminate 33 employee contracts as a result of the financial distress, State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Baytown) sent an email to superintendents in Deer Park, Pasadena, La Porte, and Goose Creek asking for their help.

“With this financial trouble comes uncomfortable choices as many qualified and capable district staff are having to be let go. Just last night the Crosby ISD School Board voted to terminate the contracts of 33 employees as a result of this financial emergency,” read the letter. “It is with that in mind that I humbly ask you work to hire these outgoing staff members in any positions you find that your respective school districts have available.”

Furthermore, CISD itself is attempting to arm outgoing employees with potential job prospects. Cain’s letter says the district’s Director of Community Relations has asked community leaders to provide a list of vacancies in local businesses and organizations so they could provide this to the former employees.

CISD has a long way to go before financial solvency is in sight, but it is taking meaningful steps to ensure the district remains on the right path. And the community, which has rallied behind them, is hoping to ease the burden of the fallout from the district’s financial problems.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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