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Top Morning Stories February 28, 2011

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Photo by KUT News.
Tonight AISD trustees will vote on whether to declare the district in a state of financial emergency.

AISD Board to Vote on Financial Emergency Declaration

The Austin Independent School District’s Board will vote on a critical declaration tonight that could clear the way for over a thousand job cuts.  Trustees will decide whether to declare a state of "financial exigency" or a financial emergency.  That would give Superintendent Meria Carstarphen the power to make major staffing changes to help close a budget deficit currently around $94 million.  You can take a look at tonight's agenda here.

Also tonight, the superintendent and the district’s chief financial officer will present a preliminary budget for 2011-2012.  It includes furlough days for employees and would reduce funding for intervention programs for struggling schools, summer school programming, and athletics.  Check out a power point presentation with more details on the preliminary budget here.

Wildfires Scorch West Texas

The Associated Press reports wildfires scorched tens of thousands of acres in West Texas yesterday.  A little girl was killed in a car accident blamed on smoke from the fires, hundreds of people were evacuated, and dozens of homes were destroyed.  From the AP:

The fires were threatening areas from the Texas Panhandle through the southern plains. One firefighter suffered second-degree burns  fighting a blaze near Colorado City, where a hospital and nursing home were evacuated as a 1,000-acre wildfire approached, according to the Texas Forest Service. Heavy smoke from a wildfire near Midland was blamed for an eight-car accident along Interstate 20 that killed a 5-year-old girl. The roadway was shrouded in smoke when a tractor-trailer hit the pickup truck she was riding in, said Trooper John Barton of the Texas Department of Public Safety. A man and another child were injured. No other injuries were immediately reported from the fires. The fires blackened almost 88,000 acres and destroyed 58 homes from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin and rolling plains, Texas Forest Service spokesman Lewis Kearney said. 

Hays and Caldwell County are under a red flag warning until 4 p.m.

Public Meeting for Next Health & Human Services Director 

The City of Austin is holding a public input session this evening to hear what qualities people want in a new Health and Human Services Director.  That person will oversee more than 500 employees and will replace David Lurie who retired in January.  Tonight's meeting is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.