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Board Briefs - February 28, 2011

Financial Exigency, Program Change, and Reorganization  
 
The Board of Trustees of the Austin Independent School District has approved a resolution declaring a Financial Exigency and Need for Program Change and Reorganization (Reduction in Force) Affecting Employment Areas.  

The action was necessary, Superintendent Carstarphen said, due a projected 2011-2012 Budget shortfall currently estimated at $94.4 million, caused by an anticipated decrease in state funding of at least $79.1 million, and a decline of 3.66 percent in taxable property values. Trustees’ action clears the way for the elimination of 1,153 administrative, professional, and classified positions, across the District, for a savings of $60.34 million.  
 
In making the motion, Board Vice-President Vincent M. Torres said, “AISD will address this serious fiscal crisis of the FY 2012 School Year thoughtfully and forcefully.”  
 
As the Board prepared to vote, Dr. Carstarphen said, “A Declaration of Financial Exigency is a statutory pre-requisite for a Reduction in Force (RIF). The Board’s action tonight does not mean that the Board is approving the elimination of specific positions. If the Board declares Financial Exigency this evening, the Administration will ensure that the District’s policy pertaining to Reduction in Force is followed in identifying those individuals with contracts who are in positions included in the Reduction in Force. The Administration will then return to the Board next month with a list of these individuals with contracts, and Board will have the option of whether or not to approve the abrogation of these contracts.”  
 
At a March 7 Work Session, Board President Mark Williams says Trustees will next explore options to reduce the number of employees who are actually subject to a RIF, such as through a “resignation incentive,” as Dallas ISD has implemented.  
 
 
2011-2012 Preliminary Budget Presented  
 
The vote to declare Financial Exigency came after Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley-Abram presented to Trustees the District’s 2012-2012 Preliminary Budget.  
 
As presented, the Preliminary General Fund Budget for 2011-2012 would total $752.8 million, a decline of more than $85 million from current spending levels. As currently estimated, the District’s obligation to the state, under Texas’ “recapture” formula for public school funding, would be $107.8 million. The Preliminary Budget also assumes a reduction in State funding of $79.1 million. Ms. Conley-Abram told Trustees that $31.5 million of the District’s Fund Balance also must be tapped to balance the budget next year.  
 
Despite reductions to campus-level and administrative funding, Dr. Carstarphen says the Preliminary Budget maintains efforts that are tied directly to the District’s Strategic Plan. “These include supporting English Language Development Academies; maintaining Gang Prevention programs; funding the Early College and Early College Start programs at LBJ High School; continuing funding for the AVID program, which encourages students to pursue higher education; and transitions to Dual Language immersions for bilingual education,” Dr. Carstarphen said.  
 
The Preliminary Budget also maintains funding for full-day Pre-Kindergarten and an eight course schedule at the secondary school level. “The Preliminary Budget for FY 12 will continue to support the programs and practices that have contributed to this success,” the Superintendent said.  
 
A copy of AISD’s 2011-2012 Preliminary Budget Guide is available for download on the AISD Website at http://www.austinisd.org/inside/budget/
 
Community Conversations about the proposed Preliminary Budget will be held March 24 at Reagan High School, and on March 31 at Bowie High School. Both meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.  
 
A Revised 2011-2012 Budget, based on feedback from the Board and the community, will be presented to Trustees on April 11. The final Recommended Budget will be presented on June 6, for Board adoption on June 20. The necessary tax rates to finance District maintenance and operations, and to pay for bond debt, will be approved by Trustees in August, after final property appraisals are received from the Travis County Central Appraisal District.  
 
 
Legislative Update  
 
President Williams reported that the Texas Association of School Boards and Texas Association of School Administrators are working on legislative issues that may benefit AISD, by providing additional flexibility than currently allowed under the existing employee contractual requirements. According to President Williams, few of these key items include:
  1. Removal of the prohibition to reduce salaries;
  2. Ability to implement a furlough
  3. Replacement of the current contract nonrenewal notice deadline of 45 days prior to the end of the current school year (currently no later than April 17) with a shorter notice period, to give districts additional time to understand the legislative budget situation, and to provide support to employees whose positions are eliminated through a Reduction in Force.
 
President Williams says individuals who are interested in receiving additional Legislative Updates, as they pertain to AISD, may send an e-mail to superintendent@austinisd.org or trustees@austinisd.org.  
 
 
Amendment to Campus Staffing Formulas/Guidelines  
 
Trustees approved three amendments to Staffing Formulas/Guidelines for 2011-2012 that had been approved by the Board on January 24. The amendment addresses the allocation of Special Education teacher assistants and secondary librarians/clerks, and creates another assistant principal’s position at LBJ High School.  
 
 
Austin Students Score Big on ‘Nation’s Report Card’  
 
Superintendent Carstarphen reported that Austin 8th Grade students achieved the highest score in Science among the 17 urban districts participating in the National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial urban District Assessment, often referred to as the ‘Nation’s Report Card.’ Austin’s 4th Grade students also scored higher in Science than their peers in 12 other urban districts.  
 
AISD has participated in the NAEP assessment since 2005, and as with previous Reading, Writing, and Mathematics results, Austin students once again outperformed most of their peers on Science, based upon 2009 data. More information is available on the AISD Website at http://www.austinisd.org/newsmedia/releases/index.phtml?more=2181  
 
 
Apple at Work Bond Program  
 
The Board approved the following contracts for projects of the Apple At WorkBond Program:
  • W.S. Walker Company, Inc., for $79,100 for kitchen renovations at Allison and Brooke Elementary schools and Kealing Middle School.
  • Benco Commercial roofing for $178,700 for roof replacement at O. Henry Middle School.
  • Royce Construction Company, Inc., for $106,545 for bleacher replacements at Burnet and Dobie middle schools; and for $121,500 for bleacher replacements at Mendez and O. Henry middle schools.
  • Peak Pure Air Mechanical Contractors, Inc., for $121,974 for boiler replacement at Galindo Elementary.
 
 
The next Regular Meeting of the Austin School District Board of Trustees is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 28, in the Auditorium of the Carruth Administration Center, located at 1111 West Sixth Street. All Board Meetings and Work Sessions are carried live on Time Warner and Grande Communications, Cable Channel 22, and on the AISD Website at http://www.austinisd.org