The Amarillo Independent School District’s 2018-19 district budget took center stage during Wednesday’s special meeting, with officials referencing payroll, operations and capital expenditures being key components of the spending plan.

“We’re working on the budget for our next fiscal year,” AISD School Board President Jim Austin said. “We spent a lot of time making sure we clearly evaluated our salaries and compared them on a regional basis and with like-sized districts in the 25,000 to 50,000 student range. In a previous meeting we looked at our health insurance in order to determine a means of keeping that where it should be. We are evaluating pay raise projections at 2.5 percent, 2 percent and 1.5 percent and just want to make sure we’re not adopting a deficit budget. We want to take care of our people, make sure we have adequate funding for operations and have enough for capital expenditure needs.”

On the heels of referencing last month the school district was facing a $3.3 million deficit in the wake of losing 500 students, officials outlined during Wednesday’s session $3.8 million has been whittled from the payroll and operating sides as a means of looking to 2018-19.

“Because we have 500 fewer students, we don’t need as many teachers as we had,” Austin said. “By attrition, and there is certainly support staff we don’t need because we don’t have as many students, that number was approximately $2.6 million. And they (finance personnel) had gone through all of the operating expenses and cut $1.2 million. We will continue to develop these ideas until we’re ready to make decisions on all of the components. We’ll vote on the new budget during our June meeting and it will take effect July 1.”

Meanwhile, Aaron Phillips, a fifth grade teacher at Coronado Elementary School and president of the Amarillo Education Association said he appreciated the focus on efforts to break down the budget in terms of how it impacts employees.

“As the district moves forward and is presented with the difficulties of having a budget that is continually undermined by the state, it’s good to know Amarillo is still in a good position to take care of its employees,” said Phillips, who was joined at the special meeting by educators and community supporters holding placards and signs advocating for living wage increases. “I do think it’s important we do more than 2.5 percent for our teachers, professional support staff and Principals. We’re really pushing for 3 percent for them and because of the difficulty in providing a livable wage for many of our hourly employees, it’s important to push for a 5 percent wage increase for them.”

Phillips said the Amarillo Education Association would continue to engage the community and school board about the organization’s position.

“We think by taking care of people, the district ensures children are getting the best possible education,” he said. “Working conditions are learning conditions and if teachers are out there chasing second and third incomes, they’re not going to be focused on the prime objective, which is taking care of our kids.”