Austin ISD approves 3 percent pay raise for staff

Austin ISD plans to pay its employees the equivalent of a one-time 3 percent pay raise out of its reserves during the next school year.

During its June 19 meeting, the AISD board of trustees unanimously approved the district's 2012–13 expenditure budget. The approximately $982 million expenditure budget includes the one-time payment, estimated to cost $14.16 million.

Prior to the vote, board President Mark Williams said AISD should approve the move in order to offer wages that are competitive with other school districts.

"We just don't compete with other markets," he said. AISD froze salary increases during the 2011–12 school year.

Trustee Annette LoVoi said the board has been studying the feasibility of asking voters to approve a higher tax rate in what is called a tax ratification election, or TRE.

If voters approve a TRE, the salary increase could become permanent.

During a public hearing on the budget, Ken Zarifis, co-president of employee union Education Austin, said the salary increase should be made permanent because it's the right thing to do.

The board said it will not decide to hold the TRE until August, when it is set to review its revenue budget.

Historic property tax exemption

The AISD board also voted 6–2 to amend its policy of giving tax exemptions to the owners of historic properties. Trustees Robert Schneider and Vincent Torres opposed.

The exemption states that 50 percent of the assessed value of the structure and 25 percent of the assessed value of the land would be exempt from taxes.

For commercial properties, 25 percent of the assessed value of the structure and 12.5 percent of the assessed value of the land would be exempt.

The board voted to cap exemptions on owner-occupied buildings at $3,500 and have no cap on income-producing properties.

"The proposed resolution would effectively grandfather existing exemptions for those properties designated as historic by the City of Austin on or before Dec. 31, 2011," according to board documents. "Historic properties designated or that changed ownership on or after Jan. 1, 2012, will be subject to the cap."

The board also voted to give a partial exemption to certain historic properties for the 2012 tax year. It passed 6–2, with Schneider and Torres opposing.

During public comment, several historic property owners and members of the Heritage Society of Austin voiced their support for the amendment.

Trustee Lori Moya said she would support the exemption because it was too late in the year to tell property owners that their tax bills would be going up. She said the board should have taken up the issue earlier.

Trustee Christine Brister said she knew that plans were in the works to create curriculum around historic properties for the benefit of students.

Trustee Sam Guzmn said the exemption was not perfect, but it was good enough.

Williams said the district would rely on the City of Austin to determine historic properties' merits. "I don't think it's worth it for us to go property by property," he said.

Appointments

The AISD board appointed new officers following an executive session.

It named General Counsel Mel Wexler the district's new chief of staff, Pauline Dow the new chief academic officer and Gilbert Hicks the new associate superintendent for schools.

The board also named Leo Lopez the new executive director of finance and Suzanne Burke the new associate superintendent for academics.

By Joe Olivieri
Joe covered Southwest Austin news for Community Impact Newspaper from January 2011 to April 2015. His reporting focused on new businesses, development, transportation, industry and Travis County issues. He was named the paper's managing editor in April 2015. Joe hails from New Jersey.


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