The Texas school funding program that tries to give each child in the state access to the same-priced education, nicknamed ‘Robin Hood’, is under fire in Aransas County which saw it’s so-called recapture bill spike by $2 million this year even though the community was decimated by Hurricane Harvey just 18 months ago.
“We feel like we are being kicked while we are down,” Aransas County ISD Superintendent Joey Patek said.
He blames the formula the state uses to calculate recapture bills for his district’s high Robin Hood payment. It takes the value of all homes and other property within a school district and divides it by the number of students.
Two aspects of that formula are bad for Aransas County. There’s a year lag when it comes to property values which means the recapture bill uses a figure from before Hurricane Harvey caused widespread property damage. Making matters worse for Aransas County ISD, the formula uses the current number of students which is still down 450 from before the hurricane.
“We had to make cuts across the district in our operating budget just to be sure that we can remain financially sound,” Patek said was his district’s response to the high bill.
One of those cuts was eliminating 59 staff members’ jobs, something district leaders would have rather not done.
“We’re having to cut staff,” Aransas County ISD Chief Financial Officer Kathy Henderson said. “We’re not able to give teacher raises like we’d like, because the funding’s just not there.”
Adding insult to the financial injury for the district is the fact that state funding is down because the student population is down. And, the district’s biggest form of revenue, property taxes, is also down, because of all of the Hurricane Harvey damage.
The Texas State Legislature is considering two bills that would provide some relief for the school district. One measure would eliminate that $2 million spike for Aransas County ISD’s recapture bill and charge the district the same rate it paid the year before. The other bill would make-up for 80% of the lost property tax revenue.
“Hopefully we get that check in the early summer, and so our budget is balanced then if we get that money,” Patek said.