Budget planning process to change in Austin ISD

AISD library Austin ISD educates more than 80,000 students in Austin.[/caption]

There are a few changes coming to Austin ISD’s budget process for fiscal year 2017-18.

During its work session Monday night, the AISD board of trustees discussed the district’s plans to roll out a new budget calendar and Zero Based Budgeting, a new approach to budgeting. Trustees did not take a vote on the agenda item, which was for discussion only.

The board is scheduled to adopt the budget calendar Oct. 24. Under the new calendar, the board would adopt its FY 2017-18 governmental funds budget on June 19 and its tax rate by Aug. 28, according to AISD Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley. Goals of the change include increasing the level of transparency surrounding AISD’s budget development process.

“This is consistent with what we see in school districts across the state … and puts the onus on the administration to [address] budgetary issues,” she said.

New funding strategy

The district is also implementing a Zero Based Budgeting system for departmental planning, Conley said.

In a ZBB program, budget allocations are set to zero. Staff is required to justify all line-item expenditures to be approved based on alignment with goals of AISD’s strategic plan rather than basing new budgets on the previous year’s allotments, Conley explained. ZBB will not be used for schools' budgets yet, she said.

School districts including Spring ISD and Fredericksburg ISD have used the ZBB program, she said.

Most trustees said they look forward to seeing the change. Trustee Paul Saldaña said he wants the district to point out any exemptions to be clear to district staff.

“I’m really excited about that we’re moving forward with this process because I think it does reiterate that we want to be accountable to the taxpayer and to the public and ultimately make sure that we are serving and providing the best service to all of our kids with the challenging task at hand [of] the limited dollars that we have,” he said.