Funding Lawsuit – How did we get here?

Yesterday, I posted that the school lawsuit cases had been assigned to a judge. This will be the first step in a long process of proceedings. Today, I want to review how we got to this place. First, the state of Texas is still funding schools under a system that was designed to be a short term solution to the last school lawsuits. The target revenue system was never designed to be a long term solution to the funding situation in Texas. However, it is still in place. Second, while the state made provisions to lower property taxes, the offsets from the business taxes have not produced the revenue expected. Couple this with an economic downturn, and you have a statewide budget shortfall in the billions of dollars.

In order to offset the budget shortfall, in this past legislative session, lawmakers decided that funding for public education would be decreased. For EISD, this translated to a loss of about $560,000 this year and a projected loss of about $760,000 for the 2012-2013 school year. For our current year, budget reductions and the federal Jobs Funds Grant help to offset the reduction in state aid. The 2011-2012 school year is going to be the “easy” year. In 2012-2013, there will be no additional federal aid. EISD will lose an additional $200,000 in state funding. These reductions along with a slight decrease in enrollment will make the 2012-2013 school year one of the most challenging years ever from a budget point of view.

Some people may ask if there is any way for EISD to increase the local revenue (tax revenue). There is. It is called a Tax Ratification Election (TRE). If a TRE was held, the voters in EISD would decide if a tax increase was necessary or if the tax rate should remain as it is now. In a TRE voters can approve up to $.13 of additional M & O tax. Another way to generate local revenue is to eliminate the optional 20% homestead exemption. Both of these measures would certainly increase the amount of local revenue provided to EISD. Both of these measures would also increase the amount of taxes that most residents would be paying.

Even if a TRE was passed and EISD eliminated the optional 20% homestead exemption, EISD would still not generate as much revenue per student as some districts receive from the state. There is the inequity. It is not fair to our taxpayers to ask them to provide funding that is being provided by the state to other districts. It is also not fair to our students that programs, supplies, and materials will have to be cut from the 2012-2013 budget because students at EISD are funded at a lower level than other students in the state. Hence, EISD joined The Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition.

Through the lawsuit, it is hoped that an awareness of the inequities in the school funding system will come to light. Students in EISD should receive an equitable amount of funding compared with other districts. The amount of funding provided to education should not depend on the zip code of the student. Taxpayers of EISD should know that their tax dollars are providing an equitable amount of funding for our children and not being used to make up for a lack of state funding.

Throughout the whole process, I will be providing updates and information as it becomes available. If you ever have questions or comments on the lawsuit or other topics, please do not hesitate to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.

 

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