Yet another Austin-area school district is serving fewer students, even while its budget balloons.
According to a recent Community Impact article, the number of students enrolled at Pflugerville ISD for the 2023-24 school year “is expected to come in under projections by 300 students.” The district’s superintendent, whose salary ($313,566) is more than two times what the governor makes ($153,750), offered little in the way of explanation other than to blame education alternatives, saying: “I am hesitant to be negative for too long because the amount of growth that’s coming—the thing that is continuing to challenge it is the choice options, charter loss transfer loss.”
If the superintendent has reason to believe that ample growth is coming, then it certainly isn’t based on past trends (nor this most recent news either). Consider that from 2018 to 2022, Pflugerville ISD’s enrollment dropped from 23,658 to 23,349, according to the district’s latest available Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Granted, that’s a relatively small decline of just 1.3%, but it is a decline nonetheless.
Frustratingly for taxpayers, the district’s student population shrinkage has not resulted in any meaningful spending restraint. From 2018 to 2022, Pflugerville ISD’s expenditures grew from $249.8 million to $294.8 million. That’s a five-year increase in new spending of $45 million or about 20%. On a per student basis, the district’s spending has grown from $10,559 per child to $12,628 per child.
Note: Operating expenditures are total expenditures less debt service principal, interest, debt service fees and capital expenditures.
Perhaps even more frustrating, Pflugerville ISD trustees just adopted a deficit budget, meaning they’ll spend more this year than their revenues provide, and they’re hoping to balance the budget with a successful tax increase election in November. This tax increase election, otherwise known as a voter-approval tax rate election or VATRE, asks voters to approve a permanent tax rate hike of $0.07 per $100 of value, which will provide the district with several million dollars more in perpetuity. District officials say the tax increase is needed, in part, to fund “increased pay for staff…”
Whether voters accept that reasoning is yet to be seen. But one thing is clear based on the data: Pflugerville ISD has a solid track record of wanting more, more, more even while it teaches fewer and fewer.