Levy referendum hike on agenda

Published 4:13 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

An upcoming levy referendum vote will be discussed by the Austin Public School District Monday night.

Currently, the two existing referendums — which will be rolled into one — are on the November ballot. Although they originally were seeking a renewal, the district is asking for an increase because of a funding freeze from the state legislature.

The first referendum expires in November 2010. It would generate $53 per residential marginal cost pupil unit (per weighted pupil) and would amount to $264,000 for the district.

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The second referendum expires in November 2011. It would bring in $251 per pupil unit and generate $1.25 million.

Lori Volz, director of finance and operations, said they are putting the referendums to a vote this year because if they are not approved, they can take them back to voters next year.

A third referendum expires in November 2013; the school board will discuss it Monday.

A public survey conducted July 18-23 interviewed 400 people, gauging if or how much citizens would be willing to approve over the renewal amount. Therefore, Volz explained, it is up to the school board to take in this report and determine if they should ask voters for an increase, and if so, how much.

Volz said the district was waiting to see what the state legislature would do in regard to education funding this year. They have implemented a funding freeze for schools for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

“This is the next step to address our inflationary costs for 2010-2011 so we can avoid any cuts (programs),” Volz said. “Our current fiscal year, we have a break-even budget, which is actually very good. However, inflation does continue. Our financial challenge is a way to balance our budget with our inflationary costs.

“One option is to increase revenue; the other option is program cuts,” she said.

Eighty-five percent of the district’s operating budget is for people, Volz said. Program cuts could include staff cuts, which could increase class sizes.

The district will release the results of the public survey Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. Volz will give a presentation, and the board will have about a week and a half to digest the information before Aug. 19, when they will vote on a resolution regarding the operating referendum.

The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 3.