Our Opinion: Approving levy was a wise choice

Published 10:28 am Thursday, November 7, 2013

We are pleased to see Austin residents overwhelmingly supported a $1 million, 10-year operating levy for Austin Public Schools on Tuesday, which ensures the district can meet its budget and pay its bills.

Due to funding formula changes and a few accounting shifts at the state level, the district cut its $2 million operating levy in half. What’s more, local equity equalization funding makes the state pay more for Austin’s school levy this year, as changes to the formula mean the state pays for 60 percent of Austin’s total levy, up from 49.

The null tax impact on residents is benefit enough, but the levy election was really about maintaining Austin education. K-12 and higher education funding have declined for decades, even as education becomes more expensive for families. That’s why the legislature has made it a point in recent years to keep up payments made to school districts, change levy formulas, and allow school boards to levy up to $300 per pupil on their own.

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Yet much of these changes are simple accounting tricks; there’s no funding increase coming to Austin schools. While the money from the state won’t decrease this year, there’s nothing to say legislators won’t change formulas in the near future. Austin educators wisely chose to ask for only $1 million, to maintain what it had, rather than ask for the full $2 million levy that voters passed in 2003.

That district officials showed restraint in its request is a positive sign the district is willing to tow the budget line even as educators dream of collaborative partnerships and innovative educational opportunities. We are glad for this and commend residents for recognizing the same.