Comal ISD, a mid-sized school district located on the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, raised eyebrows recently with the adoption of its 2022-23 budget.
Compared to the previous year, CISD’s newest All Funds budget (which includes spending out of the General Fund, the Child Nutrition Fund, and the Debt Service Fund) increased by almost $90 million total, growing from $321 million in 2021-22 to $411 million this year. That massive increase in new spending was fueled by a $62.7 million growth in the General Fund, a $22 million jump in the Debt Service Fund, and a $4.3 million bump to the Child Nutrition Fund.
To be fair, the new budget includes “almost $26 million” in recapture payments to the state; but even accounting for that expense, there’s substantial growth in new spending that state and local taxpayers will have to pay for—now and into the future.
Is this big, new budget warranted?
Consider the following information sourced from the district’s most recently-published Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
The CAFR shows that district spending grew aggressively from 2012 to 2021, with aggregate expenditures increasing from $211.9 million to $392.4 million, which is an uptick of about 85%. That’s about double what the district experienced in the way of average daily attendance growth, which increased by 44.7% over the same period. Per pupil expenditures grew from $11,958 in 2012 to $15,629 in 2021, which means the district is spending about $3,700 more per student to provide the same service.
Of course, this is just general governmental expenditures and does not include things like bonded indebtedness. Still, the numbers suggest that CISD has grown comfortable with budgetary excesses, and this mindset likely pervades its new budget too.
If you’re a concerned CISD taxpayer (or find yourself in a district with similar spending habits), then consider pressing your school board members to voluntarily undergo a third-party efficiency audit to figure out where, if at all, the district can be a better fiscal steward. Checking under the proverbial hood will make sure that any big, new budget doesn’t include a whole lot of waste.