Fi­nan­cial ex­i­gency

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

At times, Carstarphen’s hard-driv­ing ten­den­cies have put her at odds with some on the Austin school board.

The ma­jor­ity of trustees op­posed her rec­om­men­da­tion that the district declare fi­nan­cial ex­i­gency, a state of fis­cal emer­gency that would have al­lowed the district greater lee­way in ter­mi­nat­ing em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing those with cur­rent con­tracts. In­stead, the board ap­proved cut­ting po­si­tions as the district elim­i­nates pro­grams or de­part­ments.

Carstarphen’s goal was to bal­ance the 2010-11 bud­get and free up money for aca­demic pro­grams by mak­ing deeper cuts.

In the 5-3 vote for pro­gram change in­stead of fi­nan­cial ex­i­gency, Trustee Ch­eryl Bradley ab­stained. Bradley warned at the time: “We need to be care­ful of the di­rec­tive we’re send­ing. We can ei­ther trust her or mi­cro­man­age.”

Oth­ers said that Carstarphen brought up the de­ci­sion for fi­nan­cial ex­i­gency too abruptly, that it was un­nec­es­sary and that it could give the district a rep­u­ta­tion that it can’t man­age money.

“We know we have to re­duce staff to re­duce the bud­get … but we needed to be made aware of that much ear­lier,” said Trustee Vince Tor­res, who voted for the pro­gram change. “Now the su­per­in­ten­dent un­der­stands how much more time the board would need for that.”

The board made clear that Carstarphen must re­duce the orig­i­nal $64 mil­lion she said was nec­es­sary to jump-start new pro­grams. Trustees ap­proved dip­ping into re­serves to cover more than $6 mil­lion for goals such as adding coun­selors at high-need schools.

Carstarphen said that while the board didn’t ap­prove fi­nan­cial ex­i­gency, it made a way for her to get fund­ing for the most im­por­tant pro­grams.

“If I can’t do it this way, they’re not block­ing other ideas,” she said. “There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent paths to the same end.”

Mal­faro, who op­posed the dec­la­ra­tion of ex­i­gency, said Ed­u­ca­tion Austin sup­ported bud­get cuts and elim­i­nat­ing po­si­tions but was against lay­ing off any em­ploy­ees.

“We burned up a lot of good will and po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal hav­ing a fight that we didn’t re­ally need to have,” Mal­faro said. “It was a throw­down where there was some dis­agree­ment. And the test will be to move for­ward from it.”

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