The Austin Public School Board approved plans at their Monday meeting to propose an operating levy increase as part of the general election on November 8th. If approved, the $470-per-pupil levy increase would generate approximately $2.4 million annually to help preserve class sizes and programs and stabilize the district’s finances.
Revenue from the district’s operating levy directly supports educational programming and daily operating needs. Dr. Joey Page, Superintendent of Austin Public Schools stated in a news release that over the past decade, operational costs have risen significantly faster than education funding from the state, leaving the school district to manage a budget deficit over the past five years. Currently, Dr. Page stated that the Austin Public School District’s operating levy is $42.70 per pupil, the lowest in the region.
Revenue sources such as one-time federal COVID funding have helped the district avoid deep budget cuts in the past, but Dr. Page noted that the district faces a $3 million operating deficit next year. If voters reject the referendum, he went on to state that district leaders would need to develop a budget reduction plan that would impact class sizes and student programs.
If the referendum is approved, Dr. Page stated that an average home in the district valued at $170,000 would see an estimated monthly tax increase of $12 starting in 2023. The levy would remain in effect for a 10-year term, at which point voters would decide whether to re-authorize the levy or allow it to expire.
District residents can vote on the referendum beginning Friday, September 23rd in person and by absentee ballot. The district is in the process of updating its newly launched referendum website, AccelerateAustin.org, with more information coming which will include a tax calculator, voting information and other resources.