EL PASO, Texas - Efficiency is the mantra you'll hear EPISD Board President Dee Margo repeat, and something he expects the taxpayers will see soon enough.
"We have some big budgets we have to get through, the first is the budget," Margo said.
At Tuesday's board meeting the managers spent two hours debating employee compensation alone, and although they began budget discussion, they didn't finish. Margo said a public forum would only slow meetings down even further, which is why the board voted to push it until the end, a new decision some people are calling an assault on freedom of speech.
"We were given a mandate for certain priorities and it seemed to me, it seemed to us as a whole, that some of the things were getting out of hand," Margo said.
EPISD is the 10th largest district in Texas, with 6,000 employees, 60,000 students and a $600 million budget taking the largest share of resident's property's taxes. Margo said the board is taking their task seriously. They've rejected all but one applicant for the superintendent position and are preparing to go recruit a CEO for the district themselves. In the meantime, Interim Superintendent Vernon Butler's contract has been extended to October 31.
Margo said the superintendent search is harder than they expected because the district's reputation is repelling qualified candidates.
"We really haven't micromanaged as much as we wanted to," Margo said.
But it doesn't stop there. The board is planning to reevaluate how teachers and administrators receive bonuses and raises basing it on merit, a policy that could put people on their toes.
"The system that we have now is based on tenure, it's based on longevity,"Margo said. "And I think there needs to be something to reward people who are going above."
The board will vote on the final budget at the next board meeting, combing out the waste, and according to Margo, making EPISD's spending more efficient. The board is keeping the tax rate the same, around 1 percent, one of the lowest in the county.