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Austin ISD board members continue to discuss plans for 2022-23 budget

The budget for the 2022-23 school year is $1.6 billion, but that number is deceiving.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin ISD's board went over the district's preliminary budget at an open meeting this week that lasted seven hours, starting on Thursday evening and going until 12:45 a.m. on Friday, when the board members went into an executive session.

The budget for the 2022-23 school year is $1.6 billion, but that number is deceiving, as much of the money is disbursed to different school districts across the state that are considered to be “property-poor.”

Due to the state’s "recapture program," AISD is required to give nearly half of its funding to these other school districts because property values within AISD are higher, which leads to people paying more in taxes. So, the state is sharing that money with other districts that get less from local property taxes.

Although AISD’s budget is $1.6 billion, only about $800 million actually goes toward local schools since about $700 million goes to the state. That means 49 cents of every dollar in AISD’s general fund is given to the state – just about half of the money.

This has caused issues for district leaders as they try to balance the budget and pay teachers more.

AISD Chief Financial Officer Ed Ramos said in the meeting on Thursday that the funding is based on property wealth and not personal wealth. He said that 52% of kids in AISD are actually considered to be economically disadvantaged. He also said the district expects property values to keep increasing in our area, which would increase the money paid to other districts.

“If our property value growth is that high, you're going to see our recapture payment continue to climb,” Ramos said at Thursday's meeting. “So, when I've been telling you [that] in three to four years we'll reach a billion, that may change to two to three years. And so, we are watching that number very closely. It will affect our recapture payment, and our tax collections, of course.”

As part of balancing the budget, AISD is eliminating more than 600 positions. The 632 jobs include 375 full-time central office positions and 257 full-time positions from campuses. AISD leaders said the job cuts on campuses were completed in the fall "when the district leveled staffing at schools by consolidating classes and not filling vacancies after seeing lower-than-expected enrollment.”

Those cuts will help the district give teachers 1,000 base pay raises and give bus drivers and other support staff raises as well. Bus drivers will be making $21 per hour in the upcoming school year.

The 2022-23 preliminary budget plan includes $5.5 million for a $1,000 increase to teacher base pay; $6.3 million for 2% teacher pay raises based on midpoint salaries; $8 million to raise the district's minimum hourly wage to $16 from $13.50; and $1 million to raise the minimum hourly pay for bus drivers to $21 from $17, according to KVUE's media partners at the Austin American-Statesman.

AISD also plans to address equity, committing $2 million for extracurricular activities in schools with fewer resources. Those schools already get funding for the classroom through State allotments and Title 1 allotments, so this would be specifically for activities outside the classroom, like clubs.

“So, the goal is to try to have the students become involved and participate in the campus, the campus culture,” Ramos said. “And not only in the classroom, but outside of the classroom.”

These funds are all part of the preliminary budget, as the final budget is expected to be adopted in June.

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