Austin Public schools asks community for help

(ABC 6 News) – Austin Public schools are asking the community for help.

In November, there will be a question on the ballot asking people in Austin to raise their taxes to help fund Austin schools.

That upcoming ballot question is called a referendum. The district will ask to renew- and increase its operating levy starting in 2024.

But Austin residents aren’t happy that the increase falls on the taxpayers.

Something many agree on, no one likes the idea of higher taxes. But, during a time when public schools are facing low funds and an unprecedented worker shortage.

“I think if we invest in our children then we’re investing in our society and investing in our city,” said Austin resident Arie Hernandez.

Some, like Hernandez, say this is a tax worth paying.

“From our staff salaries and benefits to utilities and technology,” Superintendent Joey Page said.

Superintendent Page says the referendum will keep the district from having to fire professionals and cut programs.

He’s asking to boost the old $42.70levy up to around $512.70

The average Austin homeowner would pay an extra $12 a month. The jump will allow for new programming like ones focused on career readiness.

“These funds help us achieve our goals,” Page said.

“We want our children to stay here. We want them to help us grow,” Hernandez said.

But some taxpayers are wondering why the district can’t make up that money in other ways.

“If they’re exploring the available options, or if it’s just easier to just say, oh let’s just raise the taxes. I’m on a fixed income. When you have a limited amount of money you kinda watch it closer,” Austin resident Michael Keefe said.

If the referendum doesn’t pass, the district says it will face a $3 million deficit.

“Inflation gets asked a lot and how that impacts. And that is a real concern. We have a higher cost as well that we have to balance and work with,” Page explains.

District leaders say they’re confronted with this problem now because of waning pandemic relief programs. More information can be found on the Accelerate Austin webpage.