Austin ISD approves $1.62 billion budget for fiscal year 2019-20

Austin ISD will operate on an almost $1.62 billion budget for fiscal year 2019-20.

Within those expenditures, AISD’s $1.42 billion general fund will include about $48.6 million in compensation increases for teachers and district staff. AISD and its employees’ union announced June 13 it had agreed to 6% pay raises for all district staff while qualifying employees—including teachers, counselors and librarians with more than five years of experience—will receive 7% raises.

Prior to the budget’s approval at the June 17 board meeting, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said since he stepped into his position, the union has been working to elect the right state legislators and trustees to get a compensation package like the one included in the budget.

“Nine years later this has come together,” he said.

Other increases in compensation contributions totaling $10.46 million are included in the general fund as well as a $1.12 million increase for bilingual stipends and $500,000 for special education stipends, according to budget documents.

In terms of savings, the approved budget includes $30.46 million in decreases from the previous year’s budget, including central administration reductions and savings totaling $6.92 million as well as $6.04 million in savings at the campus level.

Overall, the $1.618 billion budget includes $1.42 billion in general fund expenditures, $151.62 million in debt services expenditures and $40.79 million in food service fund expenditures. With $1.615 billion in budgeted revenue, the district will also take about $3.08 million out of its reserve funds to make up the projected shortfall, according to the budget.

The district had been facing a budget shortfall of about $47 million in preliminary budget talks prior to the passage of House Bill 3, according to Nicole Conley Johnson, AISD's chief of business and operations. Although AISD’s projected recapture payments to the state will still total about $612.2 million, HB 3 will reduce what the district was expecting to pay in the coming year by about $88 million.

The difference in recapture payments will go toward covering the previously assumed shortfall as well as the approved employee compensation package, Conley Johnson said.

“We’ve been able to offset the majority of the [shortfall] ... we were forecasting during preliminary budget conversations,” she said.

However, the district is still facing future shortfalls. Conley Johnson said the district will have to adjust its budget and infrastructure based on current and future student enrollment, not the higher enrollment levels the district has had in the past. Saving by consolidating schools and maximizing programming and schedules through the district's ongoing "school changes" initiative could help offset a future shortfall, she said.

HB 3 also suppresses district tax rates, which should save taxpayers money. The budget is based on a combined tax rate of $1.12 per $100 valuation, which will come to the board for approval this fall, according to the district.
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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