Austin Public Schools to ask voters to renew levies

The Austin School Board will call for a referendum to renew two levies in November.

The board voted unanimously Monday to ask the public to renew the operating levies, which provide $304.53 per student combined; the board also approved a 2010-2011 budget, containing more than $300,000 in cuts at the monthly meeting.

Renewing the levies would not result in an increase to property taxes, but would keep local public funding of the district flat, said the district’s director of finance and operations, Mark Stotts.

“We did give some thought to asking for an increase,” he said. “But with everything else going on, this is a difficult time to get the information to the public.”

In November 2009, voters shot down a referendum that would have revoked the two levies and replaced them with one levy that would have provided $531.32 per student each year — and would have meant a $1.09 million revenue increase for the district.

Now, the board will instead ask the voters on Nov. 2 to maintain the status quo by renewing the two levies which are set to expire in 2011 and 2012.

The board will ask voters to renew one for 10 years and the other for nine, so their next expiration dates would be the same.

With delays in state funding — which has remained flat for three years — the district may face a $1.2 to $1.5 million reduction in funding even with the renewal, Stotts said.

Budget reductions for the 2010-2011 year include the elimination of the following positions: one assistant principal position at the high school, one maintenance engineer, one elementary media center staff, several team leaders at Woodson Kindergarten Center, a library secretary at the middle and high schools and locker room/pool paraprofessionals.

Hours will also be reduced for other positions; five secretarial positions will be reduced from 11 to 10 months and staff development for paraprofessionals has been cut.

Elementary cuts totaled $129,911; high school cuts totaled $151,094, before factoring in the eliminated assistant principal position; and district-wide cuts totaled $55,000.

Class sizes will remain unchanged.

“Our fortune or famine has a tendency to flow with the state’s fortune or famine,” Stotts said.