During its June 17 Leander ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the Board adopted the LISD budget for 2021–22, recognized outstanding students and staff, approved a remote learning option for next school year, and reviewed a community-led committee’s recommendation for a November bond election.
Trustees adopt 2021–22 budget to support an estimated 41,749 students
After months of planning and work, Trustees adopted the proposed 2021–22 budget that supports 41,749 students, a 3% increase over January 2021 enrollment numbers.
To support the adopted budget, the district also proposed a 2021 property tax rate drop of approximately 7 cents, which would mark the third straight year the district has lowered taxes for our stakeholders. The proposed rate of $1.3472 per $100 valuation includes $0.8847 for the maintenance and operations (M&O) fund and $0.4625 for the interest and sinking (I&S) fund. The tax rate will be adopted later this summer.
The budget locks in a plan that provides the resources necessary to support our mission while maintaining accountability to our stakeholders. Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn detailed the budget, which:
- is based on 3% enrollment growth vs. demographer projection of 8.6% growth
- provides a 2% raise to employees;
- includes more money for elementary and middle school Fine Arts
- covers new campus costs for Tarvin Elementary and Elementary School 29;
- Includes funding the position of Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- minimizes staffing reductions; and
- Allows the flexibility to adjust as the pandemic conditions improve and we welcome more students into our school buildings.
“This budget is the culmination of months of work, reflecting our status as a fast-growing destination district that still faces uncertainty about what exactly enrollment will look like in the fall.” Board President Trish Bode said. “I am thankful for our administration’s diligence as they helped our Board navigate the process and appreciate our Trustees’ thoughtfulness as they worked to create a framework that is financially sound and commits the resources necessary to foster excellence in our schools.”
School districts recently received notice from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regarding ESSER III (federal pandemic relief) funds. We expect to receive funds in the amount of $15.8 million. The impact of these funds is not reflected in the proposed budget as we continue to plan for the use of the funds to meet student needs and fulfill the requirements for community input.
Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee makes pitch for November bond election
After months of work evaluating $1.5 billion in facility, equipment, renovations, and technology needs, our Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee recommends a $933.4 million bond election for November 2021 that impacts all schools and all students in our district without a tax rate increase. The bond is focused on four main goals:
- Accommodate Growth
- Renovate aging Schools and Infrastructure
- Update technology
- Increase choice with new speciality schools and programs
Over the next 10 years, our demographer expects us to add more than 12,000 students, requiring us to build nine new schools (seven elementary schools, one middle and one high school). This CFAC recommendation includes:
- Elementary schools:
- 5 new schools (Elementary Schools 30 – 34)
- Renovations and updates at 11 aging schools
- Playground improvements at 27 schools
- Middle schools:
- 1 new school (Middle School #10)
- Updates to 5 oldest middle schools
- Cafetorium lighting and sound updates
- High schools:
- $92.2 million for Cedar Park, Leander and Vista Ridge
- Schools of Choice – new building for New Hope, Early College High School, additional School of Choice
- $10.1 million for ﬁne arts
- Delays High School #7
- $26.9 million for improvements and infrastructure
- $36.7 million for interactive panels (transformational teaching)
- $29.9 million for replacing old devices
- Security and Safety Updates
- Additions and Major Maintenance for Central Administration (built in 2001, district has more than doubled)
- 139 buses
- Construction of South Transportation Terminal, PAC improvements, Science Materials Center
“I want to thank our community for bringing forward ideas to address the needs of our 44 campuses in a way that is respectful of our taxpayers, stakeholders and most importantly, students,” Trustee Jim MacKay said. “It is absolutely critical that we identify ways to continue creating equitable, innovative learning spaces that maximize our students’ social and educational potential.”
Five CFAC subcommittees, comprised of parents and community leaders, presented their recommendations to a 25-member steering committee in May. All of the meetings and materials are available online for the entire community to access.
Trustees approve Social Studies materials adoption for AP World History and AP Human Geography
After tabling a vote for a week to follow up to review input from educators, staff and community members, new texts for AP World History and AP Human Geography will be in classrooms next school year. The Board discussed the materials adoption as part of its regular Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment (TIMA).
The texts, Human Geography: A Spatial Perspective and Traditions and Encounters for AP 2020, have been available for public and Trustee viewing since April. You can view those materials by visiting this curriculum website.
Teachers in our AP Human Geography and AP World History courses have worked hand-in-hand with administrators throughout the research and selection process. Input and feedback have been gathered from staff, parents, community members through the Districtwide Educational Improvement Council (DWEIC) and the Community Curriculum Advisory Committee (CCAC). The materials teachers currently use in those subject areas are mostly digital and have expiring subscriptions.
Trustees greenlight remote learning option in 2021–22 for interested families
Hundreds of LISD families that expressed an interest in remote learning will have that option in 2021–22 after the Board approved a framework to provide 100% remote learning for PreK thru 12th-grade students to start the school year.
Other plan details include:
- a minimum commitment of one semester;
- special education/504, gifted services provided;
- all courses necessary to fulfill basic promotion and/or graduation requirements offered;
- limited advanced and elective course offerings; and
- secondary students are not eligible to participate in extracurricular activities offered on home campus.
Based on vaccine distribution, low COVID-19 transmission rates in classrooms, and guidance and rules set by TEA, we believe that the best opportunity for most students is to learn in-person with their teacher on our LISD campuses. In keeping with our mission to partner with families and create safe and supportive environments to nurture each student’s personal growth, we believe it is important to offer this remote learning option.
The move to offer virtual learning comes on the heels of legislation that failed to pass in the most recent Texas legislative session that would have funded a remote option for students. The district has applied for a waiver to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) requesting standard funding for students who attend school in remote instruction.
In a survey conducted May 18, 2021 to the present, 504 students from 356 LISD families expressed a medical need for a remote learning option for 2021–22. Our staff will be in contact with these families to gather more information as we begin hiring remote staff.
We expect to fund the $2.8 million, one-year program with federal stimulus or ESSER funding. The state of Texas will not provide funding for students in 100% virtual learning next school year.
Board recognizes outstanding student-athletes, artists and staff
We’re proud to once again recognize some of the finest representatives of Leander ISD that our diverse, talented community has to offer. Congratulations to these outstanding teams and individuals for their awards and accolades.
- Vandegrift High School Girls and Boys Golf;
- Rouse High School Baseball;
- Vista Ridge High School art students; and
- LISD Chief Facilities Officer Jimmy Disler