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APS board approves 2021-22 budget

Clears the way for a $3.3 million bond sale to reroof district buildings

 

The Austin Public Schools Boards approved the 2021-22 original budget during a special board meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The district had until the end of the day to meet the June 30 deadline for approving the budget.

“Hours to spare,” joked Superintendent David Krenz, who was in his final meeting before retiring after 10 years with the district.

APS is looking at a budgeted fund balance total of just under $19 million for the upcoming school year. It reflects a solid base for the district despite COVID-19 pandemic disruptions.

“It’s really good news given the circumstances of the pandemic,” said Executive Director of Finance and Operations Lori Volz.

“This is fantastic that we are able to be in this good of financial state given what’s happening with our finances and enrollment,” she added.

The pressures of the pandemic included strains on revenue that were cut by a declining enrollment and a hit to the Free and Reduced Lunch Program due to fewer students in classrooms associated with the hybrid learning model of last school year. The district was forced to look at ways at recouping costs, but APS qualified for an ESSER II grant. Of that grant, $1.9 million was used to retain staff that might otherwise have had to be laid off.

In the end, the district is breaking just about even in its budget, even seeing a slight gain of $300,000.

In terms of food service, the district is anticipating a gain there as well as the school returns to a semblance of normal with hopes of students in the building five days a week.

Another aspect of the budget that helped the district stay even was a 0% rise in the district’s healthcare premiums. Volz said that had premiums raised 10%, it would have equated to around $900,000 extra to the budget.

“That’s helping us in such a big way in our finances,” Volz said. “It’s tremendous news.”

Board Chair Kathy Green pointed toward another piece of good news in that there was a rise in the undesignated reserve.

“We’re very pleased with the undesignated reserve,” Green said. “It shows healthy growth and it shows we’re going in the right direction.”

In other news, though still connected to the original budget, the board also approved the Long-Term Facilities Maintenance 10-year Expenditure Plan required by the state.

Part of that plan is a comprehensive roof replacement for most all roofs in the district, minus the roof over Bud Higgins Pool, which will require a separate plan at a later date due to repair needs of the pool itself.

For this project the board approved the sale of $3,380,000 in general obligation facilities maintenance bonds. The board is slated to approve the sale at a Sept. 13 meeting with the awarding of bond bids coming in October.

The district has opted to do the needed work now to avoid an anticipated steep rise in construction and material costs next year.

The district is spreading out the debt paid over a 10-year period, keeping the district tax neutral.

The district will also be looking at spending just over $112,000 on an asbestos removal project at Banfield Elementary that will replace deteriorating tile in the original wing of the school. 

Work is forecast to be completed before the start of the 2021-22 school year.