The Austin school board on Thursday unanimously approved a budget of $ 1.8 billion, including staff bonuses and a pay rise for hourly employees.
It could also come with a tax increase of hundreds of dollars for the average homeowner.
For now, the district maintains the tax rate at $ 1.1027 per $ 100 of property value, which means a tax increase of $ 473 for an average home with a market value of $ 554,160.
But as part of the Legislative Assembly’s 2019 school funding reform, the district is expected to receive a compressed state tax rate in August for the council to officially adopt its tax rate in September, a. said George Gogonas, interim district finance director.
Austin officials said they will need to withdraw $ 43.6 million from the district’s reserves to cover local operating costs, even though they are expected to send $ 709.4 million in local property tax revenue to the district. ‘State to help finance poor districts in assets.
Officials said the loss of local tax money as part of the Texas school funding system and declining local enrollment has made it difficult to balance the budget, despite rising local property tax revenues.
“We have to always keep in mind that we are the canary in the coal mine and that funding public schools is really one of those things that impacts our budget,” said the school board president. Geronimo Rodriguez in May.
The budget includes $ 1.6 billion for the general district fund, $ 35.8 million for food services and $ 162.5 million for debt services.
Under the Last plan to the general fund budget, the district added retention bonuses of $ 1,000 for active staff employed on May 31st and who remain in the district until August 31st.
The bonuses are part of a compensation agreement with the Austin Education teachers’ union as the district announced Thursday evening.
As part of the deal, the district said it would also give paid staff a 2% raise if it met its enrollment target of 77,351 students by October.
“By putting money in people’s pockets at the start of the year, with the possibility of a permanent pay rise by October, we think this is the right step,” said Ken Zarifis, President of Education Austin.
District officials had previously proposed 1% increases based on the midpoint of teacher and staff salaries.
Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde told council earlier this month she was hesitant to include larger increases as the district’s total enrollment and funding numbers are still unclear amid the pandemic.
“All of the superintendents across the nation are all having a bit of trepidation as to what our listing will be,” Elizalde said at the June 10 council meeting.
However, council could change the budget in the fall to include a 2% increase, she said at the time, if the district meets its enrollment target and can find the funds to make the increases sustainable. .
The agreement and updated budget also increases the district’s minimum hourly wage to $ 13.50 from $ 13. In May, the trustee Ofelia Zapata request for the district to increase the minimum for non-teaching staff to $ 15.
“A lot of our employees are paid and probably work two or three jobs,” she said of the district’s $ 13 minimum.
District officials said they are looking to accomplish this over time. The compensation agreement also calls for the district to increase starting salaries for librarians and teachers to $ 51,150 and for a committee to consider how to address wage inequalities.
Parents and staff have cited the rising cost of living in Austin as calling for better pay.
“We worked extremely hard last year, risking our home and those of our loved ones to support our students,” said Megan Kite, librarian at Pleasant Hill Elementary, who said she had to move in with her sister and work a summer job to afford hire.
“The district needs to offer competitive salaries and allowances to avoid losing staff to neighboring districts in areas like Leander, Del Valle and San Antonio,” Kite said.
The budget also includes $ 100,000 so that bilingual librarians receive allowances equivalent to those of its bilingual teachers. It comes in response to requests from parents and staff citing higher allowances offered in surrounding school districts.
In Austin, the school district offers a stipend of $ 2,500 for bilingual support positions and $ 6,000 for teachers. District officials said on Wednesday they were still identifying the criteria for bilingual librarians to receive the same stipends as teachers.
By comparison, the Leander School District approved allocations of $ 7,000 for bilingual librarians and staff in its budget, according to his compensation plan.
Austin’s budget also includes $ 6.9 million in cuts to its central district office, including four police stations. District officials said central office changes are not expected to affect campuses, but they expect to employ fewer teachers overall due to declining enrollment.
The district also expects to receive $ 155.6 million from the third round of federal coronavirus relief and conducted a community survey on how to spend funds intended to help students and schools recover from the pandemic.
Most of those interviewed said they wanted to offer more support to teachers, including extra pay, and officials said they were considering allowances for teachers’ overtime to catch up with children.
District officials said they were using the community’s contribution to finalize their request for funds, of which they expect to receive two-thirds until August.
Officials said they will receive the remaining third from the district once a state plan for federal funds is approved, and the district is to share a plan for community members to review once. that he will have received the funds.