DeSoto school board votes to make job, budget cuts

Dozens of teachers in the DeSoto school district will lose their jobs as the district tries to close a budget gap. The tough decision was made during a school board meeting on Monday night.

The DeSoto Independent School District’s board of trustees have been working to address the district’s multimillion-dollar budget shortfall caused by mismanagement in previous administrations.

DeSoto ISD said the layoffs, combined with cuts to programs and temporarily closing Northside Elementary School, would help create a $20 million budget surplus over two years. But even after approving the layoffs of dozens of teachers, the district says its financial troubles are still so bad that the school board is considering passing a steep 12 cent property tax increase.

After weeks of delays and hours of talks in closed session, a tired DeSoto ISD school board approved laying off 72 teachers in the early morning hours Tuesday as well as 10 support staff members and 16 administrators.

“Tonight was a major step in the right direction — a significant move our trustees supported tonight,” said DeSoto ISD Superintendent D’Andre Weaver. “From here on out, we're adding money back to our fund balance affecting student learning.”

The district originally proposed laying off 166 teachers. But since teachers were approached, many have voluntarily resigned. The school board president says the district won’t know the number of resignations until July 4.

“Our district has to survive,” Weaver said. “It has to have enough funds to support our students.”

But even with the cuts and the temporary closure of the beloved Northside Elementary School, the school board president said there still aren't enough funds to make sure the district is on stable financial footing. That is due to mismanagement that the district blames on the previous administration.

To cover debt payments on outstanding bonds, the district is also considering a 12 cent tax increase.

“I’m assuming that will be money that will disappear, just like the rest of it,” said Shirley Shepler, a DeSoto homeowner and grandparent.

For the owner of a $165,000 home, that would be about a $200 a year increase.

“I’m furious,” Shepler said. “Disappointed.”

Shepler is most upset about the possible tax increase because it comes as the district voted to temporarily close her grandson’s school, which sits across the street from her home.

“It’s sad for our community. Very sad for our neighborhood,” she said. “We're going to have to look at private schools.”

The school board could pass the tax increase with their budget in August. Voter approval is not needed in this case.

Because DeSoto ISD does not give a homestead exemption, the increase would be $120 per $100,000 of valuation.

A public hearing on the issue is set for June 24 at 6:30 p.m.