AISD task force working on creative ways to lessen budget deficit


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District began its process of employing a community task force to help make tough decisions to help its budget shortfall Monday night.

AISD is projecting a budget shortfall of tens of millions of dollars over the next couple of years. District leaders blame the state’s school finance formula and a drop in enrollment.

The Budget Stabilization Task Force will spend the summer coming up with proposals on creative ways to help the district cut down on its deficit moving forward. It’s made up of 31 people. It’s a mix of parents, community members and AISD staff members.

“I’m definitely coming into this with an open mind,” said Tanner Long, one community member serving on the task force. “I think the more members you can get involved, whether it’s community stakeholders, teachers, students, you know, whoever may have an interest in this, it would definitely contribute to the overall well-being for the district.”

The district will take $29 million out of its reserve fund, or savings account, to cover its deficit in the 2018-2019 school year. In the 2019-2020 school year, the shortfall is expected to more than double to an excess of $70 million dollars. At that point, AISD’s Chief Financial Officer, Nicole Conley Johnson says continuing to take from savings won’t be an option.

 “You can’t just spend down your bank account to nothing,” Conley Johnson said.

Conley Johnson says she’s hopeful the task force will be able to come up with creative ways to help solve the current budget crisis.

“We know that we can’t just cut budgets and cut our way out of it because it would mean a significant service disruption to some of our programs and students and families,” she said.

Her hope is that the task force will be able to pinpoint which programs aren’t cost-effective, look at ways to lease or sell some AISD properties that could bring in revenue and potentially outsource some services.

“We’ve got a little bit of time to sort of get in there with some preemptive options to really mitigate some of the shortfalls that we’re seeing down the road,” Conley Johnson said.
The task force will come up with a number of proposals over the summer, then present them to the school board by mid to late fall.

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