Public school finance reform dominated Texas’ 86th legislative session, which adopted House Bill 3 that tremendously impacts Boerne ISD’s budget in terms of its “Robin Hood” payment, tax rate and revenue.
Previously BISD, a property wealthy district, experienced increasing recapture payments to the State of Texas, totaling $109 million since 2005. Last year, $10.7 million of recapture, or 13% of BISD’s General Fund budget, was redistributed to property poor districts. This equals $530 in Robin Hood taxes to the average BISD homeowner.
As recapture increased, BISD’s revenue/student deteriorated in comparison to other Texas districts. In 2005, BISD was at the 70th percentile of districts in revenue/student. By 2018-19, BISD dropped to the bottom 10%, or $1600 less/student than the state average.
Texas funds public education on a weighted basis, including a Basic Allotment that is guaranteed to each student. Additional funding is based on factors including students who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, enrolled in Career and Technical Education classes or receive Special Education services.
After all weights are added to the Basic Allotment, any excess funds raised by property taxes are sent to the state for redistribution; hence the term Robin Hood. However, due to complex formulas, 60 districts, including BISD, were penalized further, making reform more urgent.
Knowing school finance reform would dominate the legislative session, BISD’s School Board and Administration were determined to have a strong voice in adopting reform.
In October 2018, BISD Trustees adopted legislative priorities advocating an increase in the Basic Allotment (which reduces recapture), granting property wealthy districts transportation aid previously not allowed, allotting money for fast growth districts that open new schools requiring additional overhead, and ensuring the Teacher Retirement Pension System is actuarily sound to make the profession more attractive for the long term.
Consistent communication educated the community on these issues, and BISD received strong support from residents who traveled to Austin to meet with numerous key legislators, while hundreds of others made phone calls and wrote letters of support.
HB 3 addressed all of BISD’s main priorities, tremendously impacting the 2019-20 budget. According to Dr. Thomas Price, BISD Superintendent, “With the old funding formula we would have had enough money to open our two new schools this August (Herff Elementary and Voss Middle School) and hire only some of the teachers needed to cover our enrollment growth of 450 new students. House Bill 3’s formula generates an additional $4.5 million for us.”
The impact of HB 3 on BISD is as follows:
Reforming Robin Hood: For the first time in 15 years, BISD will pay NO recapture to the state in 2019-20 and 2020-21. This allows locally paid taxes to remain in Boerne.
Property Tax Relief: BISD will reduce its Maintenance and Operations tax rate from $1.04 to $.97, or about $260 to the average homeowner, saving taxpayers $5 million district wide. Beginning in 2020-21, any revenue increase in appraised value growth beyond 2.5% will be used to further reduce the M&O tax rate. Dr. Price expects the M&O tax rate to be as low as $.87 within four or five years, adding, “The legislature has committed to making up the difference with state funding as local rates are reduced. We will hold them to that commitment.”
Compensation: A priority was to make teacher pay more competitive. According to Dr. Elaine Howard, BISD Chief Human Resources Officer, a thorough study was conducted last year by the Texas Association of School Boards comparing BISD’s pay scale with neighboring districts. While BISD was slightly ahead of Hill Country districts, it lagged behind many others in Bexar County.
HB 3 mandated that 30% of additional revenue be allocated to employee pay, with 75% of that going to teachers, or $1490 for the average BISD teacher. The 2019-20 budget grants teachers a 5% raise ($2600 average), the highest in the San Antonio region, and an additional $500 bonus for those with five years or more of classroom experience. This totals over $3000 for most teachers, more than double the state mandate.
All other employees received raises of 4%, or twice what they received last year.
Dr. Price noted that the past two years’ raises (cumulative 9%) attempt to make up for 2011-2014 when no raises were given due to tight budgets, cutbacks in state education funding and increasing recapture payments.
Safety and Security: Physical improvements were completed this summer. All schools will now have enclosed entry vestibules and safety cameras. BISD added a Coordinator of Security, Hector Hernandez, a former School Resource Officer (SRO) at Boerne High School for 18 years. Hernandez stated, “We view school safety holistically. We have increased our number of SRO’s, counselors, and have adopted a ‘See Something, Say Something’ program that has provided us valuable information. We want to enhance safety and security while maintaining a welcoming school environment.”
Capital Equipment: In previous years due to tight budgets, equipment replacement was put on the back burner. Dr. Price said, “We are finalizing an IT, Transportation and Extra Curricular equipment replacement cycle that will allow us to plan appropriately for the future. We will present to the board in October a supplemental budget plan with funds left unallocated in the 2019-20 budget.”
Overall, BISD is very grateful for HB 3 and appreciates the support of our community and local legislators. Our students and taxpayers will benefit from this progress as we work to maintain and improve excellence in BISD.
For more information, www.boerneisd.net/Page/5218.
Boerne ISD Continues To Make The Grade
The 2020 School and District Rankings compiled by the Niche Report rank Boerne ISD #32 out of 1,002 Best School Districts in Texas with an Overall Niche Grade of A. In the Texas Education Agency 2018 Accountability Ratings Overall Summary, Boerne ISD excels again: