"We're preparing the budget. We are absolutely going to have to use our reserves,” she said. “It's the magnitude of the use of those reserves [that’s the question now].”
Conley presented trustees with a look at ongoing budgeting work for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget. The board will receive a formal presentation on the preliminary budget in April with a vote on a final budget scheduled for June.
Priority budget requests for this year equal roughly $31 million, according to the presentation. Priorities include a 1.5% cost of living wage raise for employees totaling $9 million, and a $10 million investment in new strategic staffing strategies, which were approved as part of the district’s school changes process last fall.
Projected budgetary savings include about $1.22 million from closing Brooke Elementary School and $1.47 million from closing Pease Elementary School, both of which will close next school year through the approved School Changes.
Conley said financial challenges facing the district continue to be projected enrollment decreases over the next five years, an increase in area charter school options and projected increases in annual recapture payments to the state.
Also, she said a current dispute between the Travis Central Appraisal District and the Austin Board of Realtors over housing data could prevent residential properties from being reappraised this year. By not apprising properties, she said property values in the district would likely be lower this year than anticipated and could adversely affect state funding and AISD’s scheduled recapture payments.
The district’s 2020 fund balance reserve is estimated at $291 million, according to the presentation.
“We’re in a good place because we do have reserves to buy us some time [to lower future deficits], but we do want to make sure we are tightening our practices,” she said.