AUSTIN (KXAN) - Money troubles have plagued the Austin Independent School District for the last few years, but there may now be a light at the end of the tunnel.
the district is now projecting a fund balance of $179.8 million dollars, which is over 20 percent of the expenditure budget. That money exceeds the board's minimum fund balance of 14 percent, meaning they have some room to breathe and spend a little if need be.
Staff members with the school district credit an increase in spending controls and cuts, along with increased tax revenues and maximization of available funds, for the higher fund balance.
There also may be a way to keep the fund balance maximized without raising property taxes, and keeping the rate at its present rate for at least the next year or two.
Administrators hope to be able to use the extra surplus left over in the fund balance for fiscal year 2013 to compensate current staff members and teachers with a pay raise as high as 3 percent to 4 percent.
Within the last few years, the district has eliminated over 1,000 positions, and cut back on several programs.
"When pay is flat for two to three years. And work load, what's required of you in your job, is increasing because of cuts. To be able to get some compensation, something to acknowledge and respect the fact that you're working so hard for the district and so hard for the kids in the district, people are going to be excited out it. They're going to be happy to hear it," said Ken Zarifis, co-president of Education Austin.
Austin pays teachers lower than any other Central Texas school district, about 3.6 percent lower. District staff members hope to encourage the Board of Director's to favor one of the pay raise options so they can try and retain and attract high quality staff members.
"We've been in a holding pattern for two years because of the budget crunch from the Legislature, cuts and RIFF's. It's been very difficult. So, to see that the District is trying to move forward in a positive way to find a way to find a way compensate teachers and employees for the hard work they do. We're very encouraged by that," Zarifis said.
More meetings are expected regarding the salary increases. The board hopes to also make a decision on whether to withdraw from Financial Exigency, the current financial emergency the District has been in place the past year, by the board meeting in February.
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