School finance reform leaves Austin ISD with a major surplus

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After planning for massive cuts and a $47 million budget deficit, Austin ISD is seeing a sudden change in fortune.

On Saturday, the Texas legislature passed school finance reform, allowing the district to keep $193 million it would have otherwise owed the state.

With all that extra money, come some extra asks.

Last week, the teacher and employees union, Education Austin, rallied outside a school board meeting while asking for a 10 percent raise. Now, it’s digging in. 

“We know now, and we can’t let anything deter us from seeing that all employees get a substantial raise,” Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said.

Under the previous recapture law, Austin ISD would have owed the state $781.6 million next year, more than double what any other district would have paid. 

With the passage of House Bill 3, the district will now owe $588.3 million.

The savings is second to only Houston ISD, which is going from paying $308.6 million, to nothing.

Despite the extra money, Austin ISD is still planning for significant cuts.

The latest budget proposal in April called for more than $30 million in savings. It includes saving $8 million in projected vacancies, $3.4 million from staffing reduction and $560,000 on school supplies.

“Gives us some breathing room in terms of the financial pressures that we’re experiencing,” said Nicole Conley, AISD’s Chief of Business and Operations, in an April interview.

Heading into negotiations this Thursday, the union is asking for staff to receive $58 million from the savings. 

“To keep people here, to attract people to the district, and to retain them will mean a sizable investment on the district’s part,” Zarifis said. 

Up to this point, the district has been holding firm at just a one-percent raise for teachers.

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