School board discusses referendum options

Published 6:53 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Austin Public Schools took preliminary steps to consider future referendums during a study session Tuesday.

The district currently has three voter-approved operating referendums in place that total about $3.6 million annually, or $719 per pupil. One will be up for renewal in November, and the other two as well in November of 2011 and 2013.

“These play a large role in what programs we are able to offer,” said district director of finance and operations Mark Stotts.

The district, like many across the state, is stuck in a tight financial spot because of a standstill in state funding and the projected delay of state aid payments.

In addition, the district’s last levy increase request failed by 116 votes in November. The measure would have replaced two existing referendums with a newer one, funneling $1 million into the district.

The school board has since authorized principals at all of Austin’s schools to recommend cuts to save $300,000.

At the session Tuesday, Stotts presented to the school board three potential options for referendum renewals.

None of the options would increase property taxes and have to do rather with the time frame of asking for renewals.

Right now, the 10-year referendums’ expiration dates are staggered but they could all be renewed at once to put them onto the same timetable so that referendum renewal would not have to be on the ballot year after year.

Discussions regarding any additional levy referendum revenue will take place after the 2010 legislative session.

“We will see what this legislative session brings,” Stotts said. “The state has never had to deal with this kind of a deficit… unfortunately that sometimes shifts the responsibility onto the taxpayer.”

The next school board meeting is Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers.