Lake Travis ISD begins preliminary budget discussions featuring tax rate reductions, enrollment projects

Pam Sanchez, chief financial officer for Lake Travis ISD, presented early budget estimates during a Jan. 20 school board meeting. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)
Pam Sanchez, chief financial officer for Lake Travis ISD, presented early budget estimates during a Jan. 20 school board meeting. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)

Pam Sanchez, chief financial officer for Lake Travis ISD, presented early budget estimates during a Jan. 20 school board meeting. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)

For school districts, January marks the start of the eight-month budget planning process for the upcoming year, according to Pam Sanchez, Lake Travis ISD’s chief financial officer.

During a Jan. 20 LTISD board meeting, Sanchez began the fiscal year 2021-22 preliminary budget overview, which featured projections for enrollment, revenue and property value for the district.

Notably, these projections are subject to change given the convening of the 87th Texas Legislature on Jan. 12, Sanchez said. She added that LTISD drafted projections under the assumption that the state’s current school funding law, House Bill 3, would remain in effect.

The early estimates indicate a balanced budget of $43,164,472 and show little to no change in revenue from the prior school year.

The FY 2021-22 budget also reflects a tax rate compression, as mandated by HB 3. The total tax rate is proposed at $1.2772 per $100 of valuation, down from $1.3239 for the 2020-21 school year.

LTISD is also projecting an 8% increase in taxable property value. Travis County property values were not reappraised in 2020 following a dispute over market data between Travis Central Appraisal District and the Austin Board of Realtors.

According to Sanchez, TCAD will be appraising property values in 2021, and LTISD is anticipating an increase in value.

One of the largest factors in determining the budget will be student enrollment, which declined by approximately 3% amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Sanchez said she is anticipating those numbers will improve based on recent enrollment trends; however, LTISD is still awaiting an official demographic report.

Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year is projected at 11,404, which reflects a 401-student increase from the current school year.

LTISD will remain conservative in its financial planning approach, according to Sanchez.

“Our operating budget has increased about 75% over the last 12 years, yet our student growth has been way above that, at 81%, so we’re very conservative in our approaches and decisions,” Sanchez said.

Missing from the budget overview were discussions surrounding staff allocations and potential compensation increases, which are yet to be determined. Sanchez said budget planning will pick back up at the February meeting, and staffing decisions will be discussed in April.
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


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