PISD Finances, Plain and Simple

Paul Harvey was well known for taking a topic that people tended to know something about, telling an interesting story that expanded on the topic and then stating, “now you know the rest of the story.” Many of us would probably say we know part of the story about how school districts receive funding to educate our kids. For example, we know we pay property taxes, but beyond that you may be wondering where all the money comes from. If you are, read on.

Pflugerville ISD’s budgeted revenue for the 2009-10 school year is $155 million. Of that amount, $75.9 million (49%) comes from property tax, $76.5 million (49.4%) comes from state funding and the remaining $2.6 million comes from federal projects and other local income.

The Texas Legislature meets every two years and sets the rules by which all Texas school districts will abide. In 2006 the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1 in an attempt to reduce property taxes and equalize state funding. The bill required each school district to lower its property tax rate by one-third and supplemented that reduction by increasing state aid.

House Bill 1 also capped the TOTAL of local and state revenues at the 2006 funding level. This had two main repercussions. First, since the TOTAL funding was capped, Pflugerville ISD received no benefit from its rising property values that increased property taxes; the state funding simply decreased by the same amount that property taxes increased. Second, it locked in place the differences between districts in terms of what each district’s total funding is.

A school district’s “target revenue” determines its level of funding. Target revenue simply amounts to how much total funding a district will receive per child (i.e. Weighted Average Daily Attendance). The following is a comparison of how Pflugerville’s target revenue for 2008-09 compares to surrounding districts:

  Target Revenue Add’l Funding PISD Would Receive
at this Target Revenue
Round Rock ISD $5,604 $18.3 million
Leander ISD $5,565 $17.3 million
Manor ISD $5,394 $12.9 million
Del Valle ISD $5,139 $6.4 million
Hutto ISD $5,128 $6.2 million
Pflugerville ISD $4,887  

So, if PISD received the same target revenue as Round Rock, it would receive an additional $18.3 million per year. Thus, there is a significant funding disparity between PISD and our neighboring school districts.

There are only two ways PISD can receive additional funding under the current law. One way is an increase in student enrollment. Of course, more students means more cost. The second way is by raising the maintenance and operation tax rate, which is currently set at $1.04. Raising this tax rate would require voter approval through a tax rollback election, a burden PISD has not chosen to place on taxpayers. Instead, it has continued to find ways to reduce budgets so that it may live within its means.

So, now you know “more of the story.” If you’d like to hear even more, please attend the PISD Community Forum on Thursday, October 29 at 7 p.m. at the PISD Administration Building.