School board approves budget reduction

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Austin School Board has approved a $692,800 budget reduction and revenue enhancement plan for 2009-10 to adjust for projected enrollment, grants and other changes.

Interim superintendent Bruce Anderson emphasized the amended budget does not include staff layoffs and that he believes the public will continue to approve of the Austin Public School District’s fiscal management.

“It’s a district that is fiscally accountable to taxpayers,” Anderson said.

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Currently, the district is not able to confirm what the funding situation is at the state level or what they will receive in federal stimulus funding.

“It might be July before we really have answers,” said Lori Volz, director of finance and operations, adding that the district’s budget has to be approved in June.

“We are in a very good situation to weather the storm,” she added.

Volz believes the economy will probably affect public schools for the next four years.

“Federal stimulus comes with a lot of strings attached,” she explained. “It is very difficult to figure out how this is going to fit together.

“A lot of water is going to go over the dam between now and the start of the school year,” Volz said.

The district’s amended budget makes adjustments for projected enrollment, which is 36 students higher than expected. It included suggestions from administrative staff as well.

Administration has supported salary freezes, which amount to $36,400 in one-time savings, what Anderson called a “generous and sacrificial effort.”

Included in the plan are ticket increases from $6 to $7 for athletic events; reduction of overloads, which occur when staff teach more classes than scheduled; licensed staff adjustments, including retirements, attrition and needs based on enrollment projection; and streamlining of operations in the Human Relations department, software and supplies.

Now, more than ever, the district needs to pass the operating referendum this fall, Volz said. The board has not decided whether to ask for a renewal, as previously planned, or an increase.

The district will receive feedback from a public survey in July.

Board member Curt Rude asked how the school board members can get the message about the importance of the referendum out in the public.

Anderson said that promoting the referendum in the community will require “active, unanimous action by the board.”