The Austin ISD board of trustees unanimously approved June 24 the $1.73 billion budget for fiscal year 2021-22.
The budget consists of $1.53 billion for the general fund, $35.7 million for the food service fund and $162.5 million for the debt service fund. The overall budget is 8% higher than the FY 2020-21 budget of $1.6 billion. Of the money that makes up the general fund, $709.4 million will be paid to the state for recapture. Recapture, often referred to as Robin Hood, means schools have to pay a certain amount of their property tax revenue to the state to help all school districts have the same amount of money to spend per child. The current recapture for this fiscal year is $675 million, Interim Chief Financial Officer George Gogonas said during a presentation.
The greatest expenditures in the general fund are projected to be for recapture and $516.13 million for instruction, making up 45% and 33% of the general fund, respectively. AISD will not be able to certify the tax rate until August.
All AISD staff will receive a $1,000 stipend regardless of an incentive, such as meeting an enrollment goal, Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said. After signing an agreement with Education Austin, AISD replaced the previously recommended 1% pay raise with a retroactive 2% salary midpoint pay raise if an enrollment goal is met. This pay raise will not affect insurance costs for any employees, Elizalde said.
“This means some people will be getting a little bit more than 2% and some people will be getting less,” Elizalde said. “It depends on what position they have and how much they make, but it will be for all employees.”
Over 20 public comments were broadcasted during the public hearing, consisting primarily of AISD teachers and staff demanding a pay raise. AISD staff expressed fear they will get pushed out of the district because their salary is not enough to support the growing cost of living in Austin. Others cited the extreme hardship from transitioning to virtual teaching during the pandemic as another factor. Many of their peers have already had to move to other districts and cities to obtain more secure wages, said Megan Kite, the librarian at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, in her public comment.
“A colleague of mine decided to move to San Antonio this year,” Kite said. “He can afford a three-bedroom house for less than $200,000 and he is going to make over $10,000 more starting. Meanwhile, I am here in Austin having to move in with my sister because I can’t afford the ever-increasing rent with my current salary. Forget purchasing a home.”
AISD will be commencing a joint committee with Education Austin to set long-term goals to create a more competitive and livable salary for staff, especially teachers, Elizalde said.
“The committee will provide us with a lot of ideas so that we can work towards a balanced budget,” Elizalde said. “We have to get to a balanced budget in order to get anywhere close to providing teacher salaries to compare with other districts' average salaries. I know that the board wants me to solve this today, but I think it’s going to take at least two years, definitely in three.”
Editor's note: This story was corrected to reflect a correct budget total and general fund revenue. Austin ISD's total budget for fiscal year 2020-21 has also been added.