Lake Travis ISD officials have expressed frustration over a lack of state funding as the district is projecting an over $3.8 million budget shortfall for next year.

Current situation

LTISD is projected to adopt an $3.86 million shortfall in its general operating fund budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, according to a preliminary budget presented at a Jan. 17 board of trustees meeting. The preliminary budget includes about $163.9 million in expenditures and $160 million in revenues, assuming the district enrolls 42 more students and sees an 8% increase in property values.

The shortfall comes as the district is expected to pay over $50 million in recapture, a $3.6 million increase from last school year, said Pam Sanchez, LTISD assistant superintendent for business services. The district will need to carefully watch its fund balance as it is projected to decrease over the next couple of years, she said.

“We're just going to go forward with [the budget] as is—another year of no increase in state funding for school districts,” Sanchez said.

A closer look

Amid several legislative sessions in 2023, Texas lawmakers failed to pass many bills increasing school funding. Sanchez noted that the basic allotment per student has not increased since 2019, and the district has yet to see adjustments for cost of living or inflation.

The district has been tasked with meeting new state mandates without sufficient funding, Superintendent Paul Norton said.

House Bill 3 has required school districts to have an armed security officer at every campus since Sept. 1. The state has allocated LTISD around $273,000 for safety efforts this school year, while its police department is budgeted at over $1 million, said Marco Alvarado, LTISD executive director of communications and community relations.

“Not only has there not been an increase in the student allotment, but there’s been an increase in accountability for us to have these things without the finances,” Norton said.

The preliminary budget includes no compensation increases for staff, Sanchez said. Place 1 board member Phillip Davis expressed concerns about the district’s ability to compete with neighboring districts in recruiting and retaining staff.

The district is not recommending adopting a budget without pay increases, Norton said. District officials will consider potential compensation increases during budget workshops, Place 5 board member Kim Flasch said.

Also of note

LTISD is one of many districts that will be impacted by a recent funding reduction to the state’s School Health and Related Services program following an audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The district is expected to receive $200,000 less in Medicaid reimbursements for special education students, Sanchez said.

Notable quote

“I think there's this disconnect between what's happening from the state level, and then what's happening locally,” Place 2 board member Lauren White said. “What is happening downtown in Austin is having a direct impact on the lives of our students and staff.”

Stay tuned

District officials will continue to update the budget until the board of trustees take a vote Aug. 21, according to the district’s budget calendar.

“We're watching and seeing what we can do to minimize our projected deficit right now,” Sanchez said.