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Board Briefs - August 25, 2008

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August 26, 2008 - Trustees Approve $864.6 Million Budget, Tax Rates, and Election in November  
 
Austin School Trustees have approved General Fund expenditures of approximately $864.6 million for 2008-2009. The District’s new budget includes a three percent salary increase for all employees, and employee-only health insurance coverage — contingent upon voter approval of a Tax Ratification Election in November. To balance the budget, Trustees also authorized expenditures of $21.8 million from the District’s Fund Balance.
The District’s 2008-2009 Budget include a payment of $173 million to the state, under the share-the-wealth school finance obligation — $63 million more than last year. Under state law, AISD no longer receives the benefit of rising property values. When a homeowner’s property tax payment goes up because the value of their property increases, the increase goes to the state.  
 
The starting annual salary for a first-year teacher will be $41,040. Increased expenditures for energy, fuel and food costs are also absorbed in the new budget.  
 
Trustees also approved tax rates of $1.079 for the District’s Maintenance & Operations budget, and of an additional $0.123 for repayment of existing bond debt, as well as an order calling for a Tax Ratification Election on November 4, 2008.  
 
At a combined tax rate of $1.202 per $100 of assessed property value, AISD has among the lowest tax rate of any school district in Central Texas. Still, if a school district adopts a tax rate that exceeds a “rollback tax rate,” voters of the district must determine whether to approve the adopted tax rate. The 2008 rollback tax rate for Austin ISD is $1.163. Therefore, the District must conduct a Tax Ratification Election this November.  
 
If a majority of Austin voters approve the November proposition, then the tax rate for the current year will be the $1.079 per $100 for Maintenance & Operations that was adopted by Trustees. If the proposition is not approved, the Board may not adopt a tax rate that exceeds the District’s rollback tax rate of $1.163.  
 
The three percent salary hike for Austin school employees will be effective, retroactively, if the November election for an increased tax rate is approved.  
 
Superintendent Search  
 
Board President Mark Williams updated the community on progress of the search for a new Superintendent to replace Dr. Pat Forgione, who will retire in June 2009. This summer, the Board hired ProAct Search, Inc., an executive search firm, to assist in the hiring process. Since that time, Mr. Williams said Trustees have worked with the firm to create a process that includes extensive community outreach at key junctures of the search.  
 
Now, the first public portion of this initiative is prepared to begin. On September 23-25, representatives from ProAct will lead a series of focus groups and open forums with Austin stakeholders, in locations throughout the District, to gather community opinion about the District’s strengths and challenges, and to develop a position profile which will help guide the Board in screening and interviewing the best candidates. The District will also provide an online survey, and activate a telephone hotline in early September, to keep the community up-to-date on the selection process.  
 
When the Board narrows the field to finalists, Mr. Williams said Trustees will once again fully engage the Austin the community, this time in getting to know them, and in soliciting additional input for Trustees to consider. The Board’s goal is that the new Superintendent will be hired next Spring, prior to Dr. Forgione’s retirement.  
 
Southwest Elementary School Site  
 
On a 7-1-1- vote, Trustees approved the selection of a 14-acre tract of donated land for the site of the new Southwest Austin Elementary School — the seventh campus to be constructed under the District’s 2004 Apple At Work Bond Program. Additional testing will be conducted to ensure the environmental viability of the property. The site is located on Meridian Park Blvd., near the intersection of FM 1826 and Highway 45. The 32-classroom school will relieve Clayton and Mills elementary schools, and is scheduled to open in August 2010.  
 
Of the eight schools included in the 2004 Bond Program, five — Perez, Clayton, Overton, and Blazier elementaries, and Garcia Middle School — have opened. The Southwest Middle School, located at Slaughter Lane and FM 1826, is now under construction and will open in Fall 2009.  
 
The next Regular Meeting of the Board is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, September 8, 2008, in the Auditorium of the Carruth Administration Center, located at 1111 West Sixth Street. All Board meetings are carried live on Time Warner and Grande Communications Cable Channel 22 and the AISD website at www.austinisd.org

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