Paying for our schools–construction

In Texas our local school boards don’t have a lot of financial flexibility when it comes to paying for our schools because of the laws passed by our state legislature.

School districts are allowed to set two property tax rates.  One is for operations and maintenance and the other is for debt service.  Both rates are capped if I am correct.

Substantially the remainder of the funds that a school district receives are from the state and feral governments.  These are funds that have been taken from the public at large and are then doled out without local input.

Poorer school districts in Texas have maintained that the distribution formulas used in Texas are unfair.

Developing formulas that all parties agree are fair may not be possible.

What is possible however is to fix the way that we pay for our buildings.

Under our present system administrators and school boards are allowed (some say forced) to deliberately under-fund the physical maintenance of our buildings and use the money to pay for other expenses.  When the buildings finally deteriorate to the point that maintenance can no longer be ignored the districts turn to bond issues (debt) to replace or refurbish the buildings.

Luckily for the officials and board members that ignored the maintenance costs they are long gone and cannot be held accountable.

Paying for maintenance as it is needed would be cheaper and would improve the educational experience for our children.

One solution to the problem is to deny the school districts the ability to    incur debt by only allowing them to have a single tax rate–one for operations and maintenance.

Some will argue that this creates a problem for districts that are growing or that suffer damage from disasters.  Leasing school buildings from developers would solve the first problem and insurance the second.

We need to find a way to stop the debt option and force us to pay our costs as we go.

We deserve better.





4 Responses to Paying for our schools–construction

  1. Tina says:

    I like your idea but Dawg points out there will always be an EXCUSE for the schools to spend money. It makes the boards feel powerful. If there were no funds for building, the school boards would find a way to deal with it. If you’re broke, you do not buy a new car just because the old one quit running. You take the bus.


  2. Fed Up says:

    Maybe we should consolidate all the school districts in El and the surrounding area. This would eliminate a lot of expensive superintendents and their staff as overhead. We could bus kids from less student populated area ( we bus anyway). Force proper O&M and use that money only for that. But 10 to 1 says we will continue to raise taxes, build education empires and screw the taxpayers.


  3. Deputy Dawg says:

    That works to a point, but consider the situation in El Paso, which is not unique: The center of population in a city moves away from the center to the edges. Districts are forced to build in areas of growth, for instance on the east side you can see the explosive growth east of Loop 375, while growth in say the area near Cielo Vista Mall is stagnant. The neighborhoods are older, the population is older, there are few school age kids in that area. So it does not make a lot of sense for a school district to invest a lot of money maintaining a school that is slowly dying population wise. However, the students that DO still live in that area need to be serviced so..YISD decided to update their campuses, especially Eastwood HS.

    A better solution, but one that parents would not go for, is to periodically, on a regularly maintained basis, redraw the school boundaries so that the populations at campuses are maintained as much as possible. Again however, you would hear a hue and cry form parents. You could bet money that parents whose kids go to Franklin would not want to send them to Coronado, the coronado kids to El Paso High, the El Paso High kids to Bowie…”We bought our house so our kids could go to XX school! ” If that happened however, the maintenance budgets could be evenly spread.

    Leasing is a poor option. Just look at the EPISD situation at their current offices where they have been told to get out by their landlord.
    There is nothing that would keep a leaser from doing the same to a school of they decide, 20 years later that a shopping center would be a better money maker than a school.

    The districts in the area have this problem: Aging schools. As any homeowner knows, the older the home, the more maintanience it needs. That is a fact of life. The average school in the El Paso area is close to 60 years old. That is the average.That means half are older. Suppose you owned 90 buildings in a city that were 90 years old or older. Wouldn’t you might consider tearing a few down and making new ones instead? Have you tried to find air conditioning or plumbing parts for 75 year old heaters and coolers?

    You said that the distribution of funds in Texas is unfair. It is not just the poorer districts that have said that. It is the Texas Supreme Court, over and over since about the mid 1970’s.
    The solution to the problem Brutus is for the legislature to stop kicking the can down the road and to actually fix the funding problem.

    Remember a few decades back when the courts in El Paso sued the state about funding for transportation and all of a sudden EL Paso got lots of new construction, new roads, needed maintanance that has gone on ever since? The same thing needs to happen in Texas with our schools. The courts have to jump in because the legislatures that are run by Tea Party numbskulls that want to privatize public education are trying their best to strangle public school funding. And we are allowing them to do it.


    • Max Powers says:

      Sorry, Deputy Dawg. But a private landlord/developer will always prefer to lease to a government agency than to a retailer. Retail is touch-and-go, but a school? You talking about en entity that can sign a decades lease. The issue with EPISD HQ is not a problem. They just need to lease elsewhere and that landlord – which would not be the City – would love to sign a long-term lease with EPISD for any HQ.


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