STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET — The future of classroom programs and teacher pay raises could be in jeopardy as Burnet Consolidated Independent School District joins the list of “property rich” schools to pay into the state of Texas’s so-called “Robin Hood” school finance system.
For the 2018-19 school year, BCISD will be subject to “recapture” for the first time with a payout of approximately $350,000 due to the increase in area property values. Under the Texas school finance law, districts categorized as property rich send an amount of locally generated property tax revenue to the state for disbursement to “property poor” districts.
“That’s money that goes away that can’t be spent here,” BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett said. “When you’re sending millions of dollars away, it makes it a challenge to balance the needs of your students and staff.”
Three areas that hang in the balance for budget planning are teacher pay raises, school safety initiatives, and what educators consider “innovative programs.”
At Burnet CISD, innovative programs include the aeroscience program for which plans included adding a student rocket launch component; initiatives to upgrade classroom furniture for technology; and college-readiness resources featured in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program.
In the area of school safety, BCISD educators envisioned enhanced features on campuses with a proposed additional school resource officer.
In personnel funding, district officials have had to adjust teacher pay raises in anticipation of an uncertain funding future.
The school board approved a 2 percent raise for teachers for 2018-19 compared to a 3 percent raise the previous school year.
“2018-19 is not going to be as challenging because we’ve been setting that money aside,” McBurnett said. “We know what the recapture payments are going to be this year, but we don’t know what that payment is going to be next year (2019-20).”
Other nearby school districts, including Marble Falls and Llano, have been paying millions of dollars for several years due to their property rich statuses. The state uses a school finance formula to determine if a district must submit a recapture payment. The property rich designation might have little to no reflection of the socioeconomic status of the students and their families within the district.
Burnet CISD officials have watched as the payouts to the state by those districts have increased year after year.
“We expect that check to get bigger each year,” McBurnett said. “That just makes budgeting more and more difficult every year.”