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Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Board Meeting Minutes

 August 10, 2018

Call to Order:  

Joseph Muniz, Board President called the meeting of the Governing board for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to order at 8:00 a.m. 

Introduction of Board Members and Audience:  

Board members present were:

Board President, Joseph Muniz, Brenda Lee, Julie Prause, Mary Alexander, Lee Sonnenberg, Bobby Druesedow, Dan Brown, and Mike Hanley.  Michael Garrett was unable to attend the meeting.

The audience members present were:  

Bill Daugherty, Superintendent; Veronica Lopez, Administrative Assistant; Susan Houghtling, Director of Planning and Evaluation; Kate Mainzer, Human Resources Director; Avery Saxe, Legislative Budget Board Budget Analyst; Pam Darden, Chief Financial Officer; Kemp Long, Internal Auditor; Brian McDonald, Director of School Support Services; Susan Morrison, General Counsel and Josh Splinter, Budget Analyst.

Public Comments/Open Forum:  

There were no public comments.

Consideration of Approval of Minutes of June 1, 2018 Board Meeting:  

Mary Alexander moved to approve the minutes as presented for the June 1, 2018 Board Meeting.  Brenda Lee seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor of the motion and the motion carried.

Consideration of Approval of Operating Budget and Personnel Budget for 2018-2019:  

Pam Darden reviewed the proposed operating and personnel budgets for 2018-2019.  Ms. Darden stated that TSBVI’s budget is based on what was appropriated to the agency for appropriations year 2019.  The amount was budgeted and we do not have the funds to cover the amount.  Funding that we received through the Legislature that come through in the General Appropriations Act include general revenue (committed funds), interagency contracts, appropriated receipts, or federal funds (collected funds). The projections that were included in the last Legislative Appropriations Request for appropriated receipts included budgeted amounts that we did not have the funds to cover.  Each year it is at $1.8 million.  Due to additional funding sources that had come in through TSBVI, we made up some of the shortfall.  In addition, we have received a deficiency grant from the Governor's office for appropriations year 2018 in the amount of $200,000.  There is a rider that allows us to borrow funds from appropriations year 2019 general revenue to pay for our federal expenses in 2018.  In September, once our federal funds are drawn down, general revenues will be paid back in appropriations year 2019.  We will make it through appropriations year 2018 with those additional funds. However, in appropriations year 2019 we are facing a short fall.  We are going to work with the programs because the uncollected appropriated receipts of $1.8 million have to be made up in the next fiscal year.  Mr. Hanley asked for an explanation as to why there is a short fall in the budget.  Ms. Darden answered that the Legislative Appropriations Request is prepared every two years.  When it was prepared two years ago, it included the $1.8 million as collected budget.  That amount had been carried forward from previous years and, over the course of four to five years, that amount has been expended.  The funds were expended but the budget including those funds still remained.  When the projections were done two years ago, it was based on what we thought the remaining budget was.  We did not verify that the funds were there.  We have implemented cash management procedures and we are going to share those with the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor’s office.  Ms. Darden apologized for not catching this and added that this will not happen again. 

Ms. Alexander asked if, in the explanations of changes provided to the Board, the decreases reflected were a part of the cash management.  Ms. Darden said that they were and explained the contingency reserve is significantly decreased as part of the savings.  We are also decreasing classified staff merits and salary increases in promotions for appropriations year 2019 unless we can recognize additional savings. The main focus is to finish out the year with enough funding.  Mrs. Alexander asked if finishing the year means August 2018 being the final month of the appropriations year and Ms. Darden answered that this is correct.  Mrs. Alexander asked if TSBVI will be taking any funds away from instructional areas that might affect students.  Ms. Darden answered they were not.  She added there will be across the board reductions for appropriations year 2019.  Cut backs in travel, direct care for students and payroll are the priorities for the agency.  Mr. Hanley asked for clarification that, no matter the performance, employees would not be getting raises.  Ms. Darden answered that this applies to classified staff.  She added that until we find savings to make up the shortfall and, at the point we have identified those savings, then there is a potential that we can give out increases to those staff.  

Mr. Druesedow stated that most state employees have gone through these types of freezes.  He added they are not wonderful but, as a state employee, he is used to it.  Mr. Daugherty added merit increases were approved by the Board and has been an excellent way of keeping employees here and recognizing their service.  It is not going to be a small thing to not have that this year.  

Mrs. Prause asked about the total amount budgeted for merit raises.  Ms. Darden answered it was $200,000 for appropriations year 2018.  Mrs. Prause asked if classified employees were non-teaching employees.  Ms. Darden answered that it is correct and means they are noncontract employees.

Mrs. Alexander inquired about the decreases in the operating budget.  She asked if they are the proposed changes to recapture funds.  Ms. Darden answered those are decreases to get the agency back on track with what was appropriated to us.  She added that there will still have to be significant cuts.  

Mr. Sonnenberg asked if that was for the $200,000 or the $1.8 million.  Ms. Darden answered $1.8 million.  She added with these cuts and the contingency it will save us $500,000 which leaves us to find 1.3 million in savings across other programs.  Mr. Hanley reiterated that for 5 years there was thought to be $1.8 million in the bank.  He stated that we spent it but did not account for the expenditures.  Ms. Darden explained that number was a placeholder to support the budget that was needed to run the school; however, there were not funds to support it.

Mr. Brown inquired about the request to the Legislature for additional funds.  He stated that he was curious as to how that would affect the decreases if they grant the request. Ms. Darden answered that it would not help for AY’ (Appropriation Year) 18.  The AY’19 session starts in January.  We have the potential to get an additional appropriation for AY’19.  The Legislature will go in and they can produce a budget for funds that are available for AY’19.  It is called a supplemental appropriations bill and it is possible that we could receive funding in that supplemental appropriations bill.  There are other budgeted shortfalls across the state that they usually address.  It is not guaranteed that we would get that additional funding.  However, it is something we will pursue.

Texas School for the Deaf requested additional funding two years ago due to being in the same situation.  However, they did not get the supplemental funding; it is not a guarantee.  Nevertheless, we will pursue that option to reduce the impact of cuts in fiscal year 2019.  The legislative year starts in January so, if funding is granted, it would not be available until this time next year.  Mr. Brown asked whether, regardless of what happens, we will still have to forgo the year without the funding.  Ms. Darden answered “yes”.  

Mrs. Alexander asked how the Board can be assured that TSBVI does not have another situation like this percolating within a budget.  She added that it is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that funds are used properly and wisely.  Ms. Darden stated the reports that have been historically provided to the Finance Committee are going to be revised.  When you see those reports and the percentages, it shows the expended budget as of the day it is reported.  That is accurate; however, it does not show the cash.  Finance Committee reports are going to be revised to reflect the amounts collected to date and the percentage of the actual budget collected that has been spent.  The reports will be much more transparent and collections easy to see.  

Mr. Sonnenberg asked if the additional funding request to the Legislature is going to make up for the shortfall.  Ms. Darden answered the funds being requested will make up the shortfall.  

Mr. Brown stated that it is concerning that the Texas School for the Deaf’s request was not granted.  He asked if we know why that was and if there are any special steps the Board can take to improve the likely hood that the request will be approved.  Ms. Darden answered she does not know why the School for the Deaf’s request was not granted.  She added that two years ago the budget situation in Texas was extremely different.  Schools were all required to implement a four percent budget cut when submitting their Legislative Appropriations Request.  Approval for our request depends on the available revenue for the state as a whole and the Legislature’s priorities.  Mrs. Prause asked if we are granted the request, do we have a committee that will decide how the money will be spent.  Mr. Daugherty answered that Ms. Darden and her team will know where the funds need to go after meeting with TSBVI directors.  We will report out to the Board who will be made aware of in both the off-month report and through the Finance Committee at board meetings.

Mr. Muniz stated that, as difficult as it has been, he would like for Mr. Daugherty and Ms. Darden to know that the Board has confidence in them, fully supports them and knows they will work through this.  He added that this is the Board’s responsibility as well and we will work through this together.

Mr. Muniz said the Board will be awaiting the information that will be provided regarding the plan to address this issue.  Mr. Muniz inquired about the spending budget being affected for future years.  Ms. Darden answered it would be less for appropriations year ’19 with the anticipation of the approval of the exception request in 2021 to make up a portion of the amount that will not be collected.  In 2021, if we are funded with the additional general revenue, we will be on track.  2019 will take the hit if the Legislature does not approve our request.  Then the School will have to function on a budget that is two million dollars less.  

Mr. Muniz asked if an explanation could be given as to where cuts will be made.  Mr. Daugherty responded that there will be cuts across the board. What TSBVI will try to protect most is classroom instruction, instruction in the residential department, and direct supervision needs of students. There might be some student activities that had been done freely before that required additional staffing and there may be some constriction on those direct student instruction activities.  The free and appropriate public education for every student at the School will be protected.  The learning needs of students can still be met without any drop off in their learning.  Staff travel and new things required for the School such as furniture will be impacted.

Mr. Brown stated that he would like a full detailed report as to where cuts will be made and why.  He added he understood why it happened but wants a deeper understanding as to how this is going to affect students and what services the students receive.  Mr. Daugherty stated that TSBVI will go through a department by department level process.  It could go into a report to the Board.  Ms. Darden added that she planned to present what those cuts are at the September meeting. There will be an additional report in the Finance Committee that will include that information.  Ms. Darden added that there are some areas in which we might increase some of the savings.  If collected funds come in higher, it will help that number.

Mrs. Alexander stated that she knows it has not been easy for Ms. Darden to go through the Board’s questions.  She added that she was a little concerned that the Board is just hearing about the budget issues.  Mrs. Alexander said that she wanted to give Ms. Darden the opportunity to explain when this should have been brought to the Board.  

Ms. Darden answered she should have raised the issue sooner.  The Budget Analyst, Josh Splinter, was hired and started doing quarterly projections working with the programs to identify the cuts.  She added that she had not identified early enough that it was going to come to this point.  Budgets were being reviewed as they were laid out in the General Appropriations Act.  Projections for the budget indicated that we would have the savings.  The percentages that are shown in the Finance Committee looking back did not raise a red flag.  Ms. Darden stated the fault was hers.  She added this needed to be laid out specifically for the Board so that there is a clear understanding of what is collected and what is committed.  The red flag was raised in May when it became apparent that possible action would have to be taken when May’s payroll was processed.  In the future, it will be made transparent for the Board.

Mrs. Alexander said that the budget from last year looks different.  Ms. Darden answered that the personnel budget is the same.  Ms. Darden stated that the operating budget is different due to its being summarized and condensed.  She added that this budget goes into detail to show where things can be precisely decreased.  Ms. Darden added that 90 percent of the budget is for salaries and wages.

Mr. Sonnenberg asked if the teacher preparation programs will take a hit.  Ms. Darden answered they would not because they are funded with $900,000 from federal funds.  Funding for the mentors and two salaries in that strategy will remain.

Mrs. Prause added that SHARS is a huge way to recoup and make money for a district. She added she was looking at the fee TSBVI pays.  She asked for the name of the company used for billing and Ms. Darden stated it was Texas State Billing Services.

Bobby Druesedow made a motion to approve the operating and personnel budgets as presented to the Board and Mike Hanley seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor of the motion and the motion carried.

Consideration of Superintendent’s Salary for 2018-2019:  

Mr. Muniz announced that the Board would recess the open session and convene in a closed meeting at 9:15 a.m. to discuss agenda item #6 – ‘Consideration of Superintendent's Salary for 2018-2019' in conformance with Texas Government Code Section 551.074 – Personnel Matters.”

Mr. Muniz announced at 9:44 a.m. that the Board would convene in open session.  He stated for agenda item #6 Consideration of Superintendent’s Salary for 2018-2019 there would be no action taken.

Consideration of Approval to Transfer Funds between Budget Codes:  

Ms. Darden stated that the Board was requested to approve or provide the Superintendent the authority to transfer funds between funding strategies.  She explained that the Legislature and the General Appropriations Act authorize these transfers between strategies up to 20 percent.  

Mary Alexander moved to approve approval to transfer funds between budget codes and Bobby Druesedow seconded the motion.  All board members where in favor of the motion and the motion carried.

Consideration of Approval of Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for the 2020-2021 Biennium:  

Mr. Daugherty explained the items to be addressed in the Legislative Appropriations Request for the 2020-2021 Biennium.

Approval of Administrator’s Statement:

Mr. Daugherty explained the Administrator’s Statement and the items listed within it.  The Vision, Mission and Philosophy statements are agreed upon by the Board every year and can be changed at the Board’s discretion.  School Governance is updated to list the new Board Members.  General Introduction explains the School and what it provides. No significant changes in policy were noted.  Significant Changes in Provision of Services is updated to state the savings in travel plan and the use of technology and video-on-demand services to increase participation rates among students who might otherwise not come to the TSBVI campus.  Significant Externalities explains how Texas as a whole is regarded as a leader in the education of students who are blind, visually impaired, or DeafBlind.  The system developed between the Education Service Center system and the two university programs has resulted in a statewide culture of continuous improvement and innovation that looks to TSBVI for leadership and assistance.  New funding (exceptional items) being requested includes increase general revenue funds, improved compensation for direct care employees to reduce turnover and fill critical vacancies, school campus safety and security upgrades and Centralized Accounting and Payroll/Personnel System (CAPPS) Implementation.

Lee Sonnenberg moved to approve the Administrator’s Statement as presented to the Board and Mary Alexander seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor of the motion and the motion carried.

Consideration of Superintendent’s salary for the Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR):

Mary Alexander moved to approve the proposed language for the LAR regarding the Superintendent’s salary for the next biennium and Dan Brown seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor of the motion and the motion carried. 

Approval of proposed exceptional items:

Julie Prause moved to approve the proposed exceptional items as presented to the Board and Lee Sonnenberg seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor and the motion carried. Consideration of proposed riders and special provisions: Ms. Darden stated that the riders are basically amendments to our bill pattern in the General Appropriations Act.  Most of the riders presented just have updates to the dates that were included in the previous General Appropriations Act.  She noted that, in the Capital Budget, Instructional Materials and Technology historically had been requested at $300,000.  Last session due to budget cuts that had been reduced.  A new instructional technology coordinator, Dan Hampton was hired and is working on providing an estimate of needed funding so the amount may be adjusted.

Mary Alexander moved to approve the proposed riders and special provisions as presented to the Board and Brenda Lee seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor and the motion carried.

Consideration of Approval of New Contract Staff:  

Mr. Daugherty listed the new contract staff: Amy Baxter, Teacher; Helen Benton, Teacher; Emily Coleman, Outreach Director; Sarai Hernandez, Teacher; Karen Johnson, Teacher; Michelle Jones, Teacher; Savanna Jones, Residential Teacher; Michelle Molnar, Collaboration Specialist; Tony Salinas, Teacher; Laurel Taylor, Teacher; and Carla Wright, Speech Language Pathologist.

Joseph Muniz wanted to know how many of the named staff came through the teacher preparation programs.  Mr. Daugherty answered quite a few came through the teacher preparation program.  Mr. Muniz commented on the good that has been done as a result of the funds requested from the Legislature.  Mr. Daugherty added that it absolutely has.

Bobby Druesedow moved to approve the new contract staff as submitted and Mary Alexander seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor of the motion and the motion carried.

Consideration of Approval of Physicians’ Contracts Approved for the 2018-2019 School Year:  

Bill Daugherty listed the physicians and their contracts.  Physicians named were:  Dr. Ashley Gonzalez and Dr. Kenneth L. Hargrave and a contract for low vision evaluations for Northwest Hills Eye Care.

Bobby Druesedow moved to approve the Physicians’ Contracts for the 2018-2019 School Year as submitted.  Lee Sonnenberg seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor of the motion and the motion carried.

Discussion on School Safety:  

Mr. Muniz announced at 10:07 a.m. that the Board would recess the open session and convene in a closed meeting to discuss the item listed under agenda item #11 – ‘Discussion on School Safety’ in conformance with Texas Government Code Section 551.076 – Deliberation Regarding Security Devices or Security Audits.

At 11:13 a.m., Mr. Muniz stated that the Board would convene in open session and added that no action was taken on agenda item.

Discussion of Initiating the Superintendent’s Formative Evaluation at the September Board Meeting:  

Mr. Muniz explained the formative evaluation is technically the mid-year evaluation for the Superintendent.

Kate Mainzer stated that she will provide the Board through email copies of the evaluation of the Superintendent that was prepared in January as well as goals and status of progress towards reaching those goals so that the Board may conduct the Superintendent’s formative evaluation at the next meeting of the Board.

 

Discussion of Initiating the Internal Auditor’s Formative Evaluation at the September Board Meeting:  

Mr. Muniz stated that Mrs. Mainzer will follow the same process as for the Superintendent’s evaluation.  Mrs. Mainzer added that, since Mr. Long has been with the agency a short time and has not been formally evaluated, she will only send the evaluation form itself to provide a better understanding of how he will be evaluated in January.  

Consideration of Future Board Meeting Topics and Training Sessions:  

Susan Houghtling discussed future board meeting topics regarding training and asked the Board if they would like any training brought to TSBVI. She added that she would be sending information to the new board members regarding their requirements for training.  

Mrs. Alexander asked for clarification of the new Senate Bill 1566 training requirement.  Ms. Houghtling answered that she had contacted TEA to discuss whether the training is required for TSBVI board members since the School is accredited differently than local school districts.  TEA told her that the training does not apply to the TSBVI Board.

Joseph Muniz asked if the Board had any input.  Mrs. Alexander suggested that new board members contact Mr. Muniz with suggestions of training they might like.  Mr. Muniz asked the Board if they would like to have training at the September board meeting and Mr. Sonnenberg answered that he would prefer not since it is the TASB Conference weekend.  Board members agreed.  Mr. Muniz stated there would be no training in September and they would discuss the subject again at the next meeting.

Consideration of Approval of TASB Delegate and Alternate:  

The Board discussed the duties of TASB delegates and alternates.  Mr. Muniz stated there would be no action taken on this item.

Announcements:  

Mrs. Alexander announced that her son graduated with his bachelor’s degree and added that it is directly attributed to the concepts her learned at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  She added her family is excited for him and appreciative of what the School has done for him.      

Adjournment:  

Bobby Druesedow made a motion to adjourn the board meeting and Lee Sonnenberg seconded the motion.  All board members were in favor. The motion carried and the meeting was adjourned at 11:27 a.m.