Pflugerville ISD’s tax base is greater than ever, thanks to rising property values and new construction, but officials say the district may not be better off financially as a result.
The typical taxable valuation of a home in Pflugerville ISD increased 11.8% from $257,557 in 2021 to $287,944 in 2022, according to the Travis County Appraisal District.
PfISD Superintendent Doug Killian, on the other hand, claims that rising property values have caused more issues for the district than they have addressed.
“[High property values have] exactly the opposite effect on our school financing,” Killian explained. “The more prosperous we are in terms of property, the less governmental help we receive—we just gather more of it locally.”
This is due to the way Texas school finances work: each district is granted a specific amount of funds based mostly on attendance, and the state contributes funding to make up the difference after property tax income is deducted.
Because PfISD enrollment is not expanding at the same pace as property prices, Killian believes the district does not have much more money to deal with than it had previously—it just needs to pay more costs with its own property taxes.
“We won’t grow any wealthier unless we see a high number of pupils,” Killian added. “There will be no additional money for wage rises or anything.”
Several additional problems, such as chronic personnel shortages, the loss of the district’s tax ratification election last November, and the usual financial difficulties that come with inflation, pose financial challenges for the district.
All of these causes, he claims, account for the roughly $10 million shortfall in the district’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year.
However, if the trend of property value rise surpassing enrollment growth continues, Killian believes the district may face another challenge: recapture.
According to PfISD Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Land, when a school district hits a particular level of property worth per student, it enters what is known as recapture.
When a district is in recapture, instead of getting money from the state, it must pay its surplus tax income to the state.
According to the Texas Education Agency, money transferred to the state through recapture is allegedly used to aid less wealthy school districts, giving the programme the moniker “Robin Hood.”
PfISD, according to Land, is a “gap district,” a district that is deemed property affluent but does not fulfil the conditions for recapture. She believes PfISD will be recaptured within the next two to five years.
Land stated that it is impossible to anticipate the exact impact of entering recapture, but the state would most likely take between 2% and 10% of the district’s tax income.
“If we go 20-30 years out, I think… over half of the school districts in Texas would be in recapture,” Land said.
Killian found two possible relief possibilities for the district. The first is a VATRE (voter approval tax ratification election).
A VATRE would allow the district to shift portion of its tax revenue to a non-recapture maintenance and operations tax.
However, a more long-term solution, according to Killian, will need to be implemented at the state level.
Killian would want to see an increase in the amount of funds a district is permitted to raise per student before falling into recapture, as well as a modification to base the allotment on enrollment rather than attendance.
Attendance has dropped in the previous two years as a result of COVID-19, and Killian claims the district is losing money as a result of encouraging sick children to remain home.
“The system is terribly archaic,” said Killian. “It doesn’t work, especially in the face of a pandemic.”
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