Budget Briefs: Task Force Subcommittees Present Work, Agree to Additional Meeting

The three Budget Stabilization Task Force subcommittees presented their preliminary recommendations and supporting information for consideration by the group as a whole at the Oct. 24 meeting. The ninth meeting of the task force provided an opportunity for the group to hear in-depth analysis from each subcommittee and their specific proposals so the entire task force could either accept the draft recommendations as proposed, reject or make amendments to recommendations. These discussions advance the task force’s work toward finalizing recommendations to the superintendent in an effort to stabilize the budget and offset budget shortfalls. The task force also agreed to an additional meeting to further discuss recommendations Nov. 14.

Here are three things to know as the task force moves forward.

  1. The revenue and programs subcommittee opened its presentation stating its most important recommendations would take a number of years to implement and emphasized that they were not simply offering a list of cuts. For example, members would like to see the district partner with the City of Austin, local non-profits or private developers to offer affordable housing for AISD families and staff on some of its underutilized properties. They also suggested the district could offer an extended school day at all elementary campuses on a sliding fee scale, similar to the way Pflugerville ISD operates. Both strategies have the potential to be sources of revenue and could serve to retain more families and students in the district. The subcommittee also discussed ideas to increase revenue from event parking and facilities rentals and indicated that the money should be distributed evenly across the district since not all campuses have opportunities to raise these kinds of funds.
  2. The efficiencies and departments subcommittee presented a variety of cost-saving strategies that could also move the district in a more equitable direction. Recommendations included redrawing boundaries and possibly consolidating schools districtwide, not just in under-enrolled communities. Subcommittee members felt that new boundaries could redistribute students and allow the challenges caused by declining enrollment to have a more evenly distributed impact across the district, creating more equitable school communities. The subcommittee also recommended reallocating transportation funds for magnet programs and investing the savings into expanded specialty programming at secondary schools districtwide.
  3. The subcommittee focused on staffing and compensation recommended using the next year for community engagement focused on staff input rather than implementing any changes for the 2019-20 budget. Ideas they would like to see the district explore in the future include eliminating cell phone stipends and instead work with a preferred provider to receive staff discounts, placing central support roles on campuses to stay connected to the instructional core, and considering modest increases to the class size ratio. The subcommittee ultimately suggested additional studies are needed to better understand how class size ratios impact student outcomes, equity, and teacher morale and retention.

Learn more about the presentations, questions and discussion during the meeting at the BSTF website.