The Austin school board Monday night adopted a $1.4 billion general budget, which requires dipping into its reserves for nearly $30 million to cover the district’s shortfall. It is the second consecutive year the district will need to pull from its fund balance to cover expenses.
The board voted 7 to 1, with Trustee Ted Gordon voting against.
Gordon said he wouldn’t support the budget because the board hasn’t had “significant discussion about priorities.”
“The board needs to seriously think about the future, the next five years of the future, what our budgetary situation is going to be and what we truly value,” Gordon said. “To me, education means schools and students and teachers and I think that needs to be our priority. I think we need to particularly prioritize educational opportunity and address disparities and to me that means putting our resources where our values are … I don’t think we’ve done that work and I’m not prepared to vote for a budget until we have.”
The 2018-19 operating budget — which does not include debt and food services and a state-mandated payment intended to fund other districts — totaled $775.2 million, and includes a 1.5 percent across-the-board employee raise at a cost of $8.1 million.
The projected 2018-19 employee salaries and benefits total about $667 million, or 86 percent of the operating budget.
As parents and students have voiced greater concerns about school safety, the district is beefing up security measures, adding $1.7 million in the budget to add five more police officers to the force of 78 and an additional mental health officer, as well as more safety equipment including security cameras and improvements to a background check system for campus visitors.
Enrollment in 2018-19 is projected to shrink for a sixth consecutive year by another 1,400 students to 79,827 students. At about $7,400 apiece, the loss of students could result in a loss of state funding of about $10 million.
The district will collect millions more in local property taxes, but a greater portion of that revenue must be sent to the state under the state’s school finance system. The district will pay out $669.6 million in recapture, the state-required payment from school districts that are situated in areas with high property wealth intended to subsidize districts that are located in areas with low property values.
Tax impact on homeowners
The Austin district budget includes keeping the existing tax rate of $1.192 per $100 of assessed value. Appraisals will be certified in July, but early projections show the owner of the average-value taxable home of, valued at $391,407 in 2018, will pay $4,666 in school taxes, an annual increase of about $400.