Texarkana, TX 60° Sat H 79° L 59° Sun H 80° L 59° Mon H 80° L 64° Weather Sponsored By:

State payments strain Harvey-battered school districts

State payments strain Harvey-battered school districts

February 10th, 2019 by Associated Press in Texas News

In this Jan. 15, 2019 photo, two water diverters drip into a trash cans at at the Rockport-Fulton Middle School while students have class in Rockport, Texas. Air-conditioning units were torn off the rooftops of schools at the Aransas County school district during Hurricane Harvey, leaving holes in the roofs. (Ana Ramirez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

ROCKPORT, Texas—Texas' school finance system is putting additional strain on two coastal districts that lost millions of dollars after Hurricane Harvey and now owe the state millions more.

Port Aransas and Aransas County districts are seeking relief from ballooning recapture payments this year as schools struggle to pay teachers and meet student needs after the 2017 storm, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Aransas County district officials plan to cut 25 jobs next school year, in addition to the 59 positions cut since 2017-2018.

The district will likely have to pay $7 million of its local property tax revenue to the state by August. It accounts for about 20 percent of the district's budget.

The district is considered property rich under the state's school funding formula, so some of its property tax revenue is redistributed to districts that are considered property poor.

Aransas County owes $2 million more this year because the state's formula calculated the payment using pre-Harvey property values, which were 14 percent higher than now, with post-Harvey enrollment rates. The district currently has 500 fewer students than before the storm.

The finance system relies on a one-year lag on property tax values so the state and districts can better estimate recapture payments.

District students are still living in half-gutted homes and in need of mental health and social services after the storm.

Construction crews plaster the walls of the Odyssey After School Enrichment Program in Rockport, Texas, on Jan. 16, 2019. The center was damaged during Hurricane Harvey. (Ana Ramirez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Construction crews plaster the walls of the Odyssey...

"We have a lot of issues still going on, and these kids are 100 percent our priority," said Michaela Alston, an Aransas County school board member. "In order for them to be better out in the community, we need to give them everything they need here at school. If the state is robbing from us, we can't do the job that we're supposed to be doing."

The nearby Port Aransas district lost the same amount of property tax revenue as Aransas County, and officials are facing a $14 million recapture payment. The payment accounts for 75 percent of the district's budget.

State lawmakers are looking to fix the state's school finance system this session. A bill filed last month would set aside $906 million from Texas' rainy day fund to help Harvey-affected school districts, with part of the money intended to eliminate the impact of districts' property tax revenue loss.

"Texas must see that Harvey-impacted schools have funds to operate as they regrow their community and enrollment," Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst said.

"Solutions are being crafted during the ongoing Legislature."

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com