With Session Over, AISD to Wrap Up Budget

Employee compensation still at issue in upcoming spending plan

AISD Trustee Amber Elenz in 2018
AISD Trustee Amber Elenz in 2018 (Photo by John Anderson)

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees on Monday, June 3, held its first budget discussion following passage of the Texas Legislature's $6.5 billion school finance plan, House Bill 3, which clarifies some of the fiscal questions facing the district. The $1.6 billion AISD budget for fiscal year 2020 has mostly been finalized, except for the (significant) question of employee compensation. District officials are set to meet today, June 6, with the Education Austin employees union to hammer out an agreement, in time for the board to approve the budget on June 18.

How much of a compensation boost AISD employees can expect, and how much of it will take the form of wages (as opposed to paid leave, retirement, or other benefits), is still unclear. Under HB 3, all school districts will receive varying amounts of new money from the state. The law requires 30% of new per-student funding be devoted to increased compensation, which for AISD will amount to about $67 million in both fiscal 2020 and 2021, when the Lege returns.

Of that, 75% must be directed toward teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors, and HB 3 calls for raises to be weighted toward employees with more than five years of experience, though districts have leeway on how to do that. Districts can always spend more money on compensation if they desire, and Education Austin has publicly demanded a 10% pay raise for all AISD employees, which would cost the district about $58 million annually, according to Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley.

"The affordability of 10% across-the-board is something I wouldn't recommend the district consider," Conley told trustees. "We're trying to find something reasonable and affordable within the context that we are going to get new money." Conley reminded the board that AISD still needs to close an estimated $44 million shortfall in the upcoming budget as it decides how to spend that new money, as well as noting other provisions of the HB 3 package that could lead to an ongoing $80 million decrease in state funding going forward.

Trustee Amber Elenz raised the possibility of offering one-time raises to employees, citing concerns that HB 3's funding gains may not be renewed by the next Legislature. Although the board would likely want to maintain or enhance compensation increases in future budgets, should AISD's finances become more stable, EA President Ken Zarifis is continuing to press for a 10% permanent raise. "We have to have schools that people feel safe and stable in," Zarifis told the Chronicle on Tuesday. "And the stability of a school is dependent on the stability of its workforce."

Zarifis also said trustees should not be so fearful that lawmakers will backtrack in 2021, seeing as both parties are celebrating HB 3 as a major triumph. He criticized the administration for waiting so long to enter "serious" negotiations with EA, saying district officials canceled two meetings following sine die to discuss compensation. "We will continue to fight for a 10% pay raise, but we will also sit down in earnest on how to create a path forward," Zarifis said.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin Independent School District
LGBTQ Activists Urge AISD to Better Support Queer Youth
LGBTQ Activists Urge AISD to Better Support Queer Youth
Only 5% of Celebration Church's rent will go toward Pride activities

Austin Sanders, June 14, 2019

AISD Told to Pay More, Make Cuts Hurt Less
AISD Told to Pay More, Make Cuts Hurt Less
School change process hopes to better support all students

Austin Sanders, May 24, 2019

More by Austin Sanders
AISD Employees to Receive Historic Raises
AISD Employees to Receive Historic Raises
District, union agree on pay package in wake of state school bill

June 13, 2019

Council Members Look to Tax Previously Exempted Waterfront Homes
Council Members Look to Tax Previously Exempted Waterfront Homes
Correcting the "Mistake on the Lake" could fund city initiatives

June 14, 2019


Austin Independent School District, AISD, Board of Trustees, 86th Texas Legislature, House Bill 3, School Finance, Education Austin, Nicole Conley, Amber Elenz, Ken Zarifis

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle