Arlington ISD’s school board recently passed a $1.2 billion budget for next year, adopting a budget deficit totaling millions of dollars.

The budget was adopted at the June 18 school board meeting.

Board members voted to spend $676 million of taxpayer money on general fund expenditures, $380 million on capital projects, $132 million on servicing debt, and $42 million on child nutrition. The general fund balance will be $25 million out of balance next school year.

The district’s deficit was previously clocked at around $79 million but was worked down to $25 million, reported The Texan.

The budget includes a new compensation package, giving employees a 4% raise across the district, according to an Arlington ISD news release. This is the fifth year in a row that the board has approved a 4% raise.

“After a thoughtful discussion, the board reached a consensus on a 4% raise,” Justin Chapa, the school board president, said, per the release. “This decision reflects our commitment to balancing fiscal responsibility with the needs of our exceptional staff.”

The raise will cost $23.9 million and be paid for through reserve funds.

“We are in a tight pitch coming up here,” Superintendent Matt Smith said during the June 18 meeting. “The Legislature has failed to take action over the last session, so this year is going to be a challenging year for us when we talk budget coming up.”

The district’s attendance rate has dropped by two percentage points since 2019. State spending on local school districts is tied to the individual student, meaning enrollment declines translate into less taxpayer funding.

“No one likes a deficit, but the state leaves us no choice when it withholds promised funding and inflation adjustments,” Chapa said, per The Texan. “We have reserve funding for the short run, but hard decisions must be made to make our budget sustainable while keeping teaching and learning our top priority.”

In March, the district worked to alleviate some of its financial struggles by announcing the elimination of 275 jobs, as The Dallas Express covered.

The move was made in response to the expiration of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) money, a taxpayer-funded program to assist schools during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Arlington ISD is not the only district in the area to pass an unbalanced budget. Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD have also done so.

As The Dallas Express reported, Dallas ISD approved a roughly $1.9 million budget in May, logging a deficit of $152 million. Despite this, Dallas ISD salaried staff will see a 2-4% increase in their salary.

Fort Worth ISD passed an unbalanced budget for the upcoming school year, which was $17.7 million out of balance. However, this number was lower than the deficit balance for the 2023-2024 school year, which was $45 million out of balance.

All three school districts struggle with providing quality student achievement outcomes. Only 41% of students in Dallas ISD scored at grade level on their STAAR exams during the 2021-2022 school year. Those figures for Fort Worth ISD and Arlington ISD were 32% and 40%, respectively, according to the latest Texas Education Agency accountability reports.