Austin ISD to vote on estimated $1.67B budget at June 22 meeting

The district is projecting its general fund will operate at a shortfall of about $56 million, with $1.43 billion in revenue coming in bellow an estimated $1.49 billion in expenditures. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
The district is projecting its general fund will operate at a shortfall of about $56 million, with $1.43 billion in revenue coming in bellow an estimated $1.49 billion in expenditures. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

The district is projecting its general fund will operate at a shortfall of about $56 million, with $1.43 billion in revenue coming in bellow an estimated $1.49 billion in expenditures. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

Austin ISD trustees on June 22 will vote on a proposed $1.67 billion budget for fiscal year 2020-21, in which the district would operate at an estimated shortfall of about $66.3 million.

According to a June 8 presentation to trustees by Chief Business and Operations Officer Nicole Conley, the proposed budget includes expenses that would allow the district to be ready for actions that may be needed to teach during the coronavirus pandemic. It also does not include any budget cuts compared to the previous year’s budget, she said.

Conley said district residents would see a decrease in the tax rate based on the estimated budget. Although the district will not officially set the tax rate until September, the budget outlines a drop from the current rate by $0.0136 per $100 in valuation. If approved, the total tax rate would be $1.1084 per $100 value.

General fund breakdown

According to the presentation, the district is projecting its general fund will operate at a shortfall of about $56 million, with $1.43 billion in revenue coming in bellow an estimated $1.49 billion in expenditures.

Excluding recapture payments to the state, payroll takes up 85% of the district’s total operating expenses.

The following is an estimated breakdown of general fund expenditures in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which is subject to change prior to the June 22 meeting:

  • recapture payments: $606.3 million

  • instructional costs: $527 million

  • plant maintenance: $91 million

  • instructional and school leadership: $73.7 million

  • support services: $51.2 million

  • student services: $44.7 million

  • transportation: $34.85 million

  • general administration: $27.7 million

  • co-curricular activities: $16.2 million

  • other costs: $11.6 million

Some specific items to address board priorities have not yet been added to the budget, but could be before the budget is approved.

Trustee Cindy Anderson said she would like to see a more than 1.5% raise for employees this year reflected in the budget. She said she is comfortable increasing the district’s deficit if it means adding more compensation to help staff during an uncertain time.

“We need to make sure that we’re investing in the priorities of this board,” board President Geronimo Rodriguez said. “I asked myself, 'If we don’t take care of our staff and teachers, how do we expect them to take care of our students?'”

COVID-19 economic impact

The district is estimating that the coronavirus pandemic will bring a total of $45.7 million in costs that were unforeseen prior to the pandemic.

Of that total, the district has already spent $9.8 million on things including technology, food service changes and academic resources for remote learning. Estimated future costs include about $22.35 million in technology and needs to implement a blended in-person and online learning format next school year. The is also an estimated need for about $13.6 million in personal protective equipment, campus supplies and training materials.

AISD also has $26.4 million in unused budgeted expenses from its 2019-20 budget that will be saved and used for distanced learning software, according to the presentation.

Conley said that education funding could be cut by the state during the next legislative session, as happened during that past two recessions. While the district could see some financial relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said the district should be prepared for a possible reduction in state funding.
By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


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