Schools take $1.9M budget hit

Austin Public Schools is scheduled to take a sizeable hit to its funds next year.

Board members passed a budget for the 2011 school year Monday, and among the changes is a $1.9 million hit to the district’s general unreserved fund.

“We’ve been planning this for a long time,” said Mark Stotts, the district’s finance and operations director. “We’ve known about this for a long time.”

The budget deficit is due in part to increasing costs, flat per pupil funding from the state and the lack of recent one-time grants that normally offset inflation costs in previous years.

The district carried a balanced budget this year, with about $1.9 million extra in general funding reserves. That means the general fund grew by about $600,00 to $800,000, according to Stotts earlier this year. The district’s budget is constantly fluctuating due to many expenditures and revenue coming in and out of various funds, making it sometimes difficult to pinpoint district funds to the exact dollar.

The general unreserved fund this month is about $6.1 million, and estimates for next June indicate the general fund could drop to about $4.2 million. That’s still higher than the $3.9 million bench mark board members have set for the district’s budget. District bylaws mandate its unreserved fund to have enough money to cover a month’s worth of expenditures, which is estimated at about $3.9 million given the district’s $47 million overall budget last year.

Last year’s one-time $1 million grant from the federal Education Jobs Bill helped the budget, balancing out a projected $1.5 million deficit. That won’t be the case this year, and district officials say they are prepared for the budget crunch next fall.

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