There's a three-story school in Houston ISD, named H.P. Carter Career Center, that houses just 54 students and costs $2.86 million a year to run, Superintendent Terry Grier said at a board workshop meeting this morning.
Break it down and that's $52,963 per kid per year.
But -- and it gets even better here-- that's probably not all. That's because the district hasn't been recording all the costs and programs assigned to each school in its Budget Book handed out to trustees each year. The $2.86 million at Carter does not include some Title I money, he said.
Trustee Michael Lunceford said he came up with a missing $700,000 at Carter when he compared the budget book to other documents.
Sharon Eaves, general manager for budget and financial planning, said the budget book was always focused on per-pupil allocation -- a way to compare apples to apples when looking across the district.
She said what isn't showing up in the budget book is special funding given to unique programs at particular schools. This doesn't just affect Carter, but schools throughout the district.
Eaves stressed to Hair Balls that the money is accounted for in other places in the overall HISD budget; it's just not in the budget book that trustees and the public use as an easy way to compare schools.She said the trustees get the complete information in other documents.
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According to Grier, that's still not acceptable and things are about to change. The budget numbers will be presented in a different way from now on, he pledged. Eaves said they are working on a way to do this. "We have to go back and rework the budget book."
"All this money isn't specified in the budget," trustee Anna Eastman said. "I think we should be able to transparently trace our money."
In regards to buildings with dwindling enrollments, Grier said: "We need a third party to look at all of our facilities across the district." Chief Academic Officer Chuck Morris said "There's other schools in this district that cause our per pupil expenditures to be quite high."
Grier noted that Carter, an older building in the Fifth Ward at 1700 Gregg Street, is located near E.O. Smith and the students there in grades 6-12 could be moved. He also said that the outside evaluators won't be looking at a particular part of town, but that obviously existing small schools will be a focus.