Austin, TX schools ask community for budget advice despite $1.3 million in travel expenditures

Jun 24, 2018 by

AUSTIN, Texas – Should a school district facing a massive $30 million budget deficit be spending nearly $1 million on hotels, and more than a quarter of a million dollars at restaurants?

We’re guessing that most taxpayers would answer that question with an emphatic “No!”

The Austin, Texas school district recently reached out to residents for help in dealing with a projected $30 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2018-19, according to an article published by KXAN.com.

The article said district officials are “asking the community to chime in and prioritize four categories: employee compensation, maintaining current staffing, district contribution to employee health care plans, and school nurse coverage.”

That strongly suggests that there could be layoffs and other painful budget cuts right around the corner.

Before that happens, Austin parents and taxpayers should ask school officials if they’ve gone through their books with a fine-tooth comb to eliminate unnecessary spending.

They could start by addressing travel and restaurant expenditures.

In fiscal year 2016-17, the Austin district spent a combined $1,344,289.35 on hotels, restaurants and airline fees, according to records provided by the district through a public information request.

A huge portion of that money was spent at hotels. We counted 2,066 transactions at various establishments, for a whopping total of $883,060.93.

The restaurant tab was also incredibly high. We counted 6,621 transactions costing a total of $249,766.76.

The airline costs were less – 185 transactions for a total of $76,323.88.

The documents provided by the school district did not include dates for the many hotel stays, but listed lots of transactions that were pretty eye-opening.

There were single transactions for very big amounts, including the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Plano, Texas ($4,556.16), the El Tripicano Holiday Inn in San Antonio ($4,518.80), the Marriott in San Antonio ($3,997.86), the Hotel Dayton in Dayton, Ohio ($3,519.04), the Hampton Inn in Rockwell, Texas ($3,507.46), the Best Western Fiesta Inn in San Antonio ($3,410.65), the Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston, Texas ($3,812.82) and the Residence Inn in Fort Worth ($2,559.90).

Many of the restaurant tabs were also pretty startling.

There was a single transaction at a Chick-Fil-A in San Antonio for $1,957,50. There was a single transaction at Jason’s Deli in Plano, Texas for $1,754,54.

There was a single charge for $1,405.35 at the Rainforest Cafe in Grapevine, Texas. There was a single charge for $1,335.10 at a Chick-Fil-A in Bryan, Texas.

The district also spent $1,140 in one transaction at Church’s Chicken in College Station, Texas and $1,051.62 in one transaction at Benash Deli in New York City.

There were two transactions at Carmine’s in New York City for $1,812.49 and $940, respectively. There were two transactions for $928.45 apiece at Schlotzsky’s in McAllen, Texas.

The restaurant expenditure list, like the hotel list, goes on and on.

How many teachers or teacher assistants could be paid with the money spent on hotel and restaurant food alone?

And what other areas of questionable spending may be hidden in the financial records of the Austin school district?

Parents and other taxpayers would be wise to find out.

Source: Austin, TX schools ask community for budget advice despite $1.3 million in travel expenditures | EAGnews.org

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