NEWS HEADLINES

Property wealth puts Alvord back in ‘Robin Hood’

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, August 2, 2014

Under the current public education finance system, good news on property values is almost always a mixed bag for Texas school districts.

That’s a big reason the system is being challenged in court.

Alvord ISD, which saw its property values rise by 6.37 percent this year, will likely be required to return between $89,000 and $110,000 of that new-found wealth to the state, to be redistributed to less property-rich districts.

“It looks like we’re going to be a Chapter 41 school because of property values rising,” superintendent Bill Branum told the school board Thursday evening.

The threshold for determining that is property wealth divided by the district’s Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA). Currently, that threshhold is $319,500, Branum said.

“Ours is going to be above that,” he said. “I haven’t got the Comptroller’s actual values yet, but we definitely did, I think, inch up over that line a little bit.”

Alvord’s property wealth, released by Wise County Appraisal District last week, was $429,113,890. Even with exemptions and an array of other numbers to punch into the state’s formula, with WADA at just over 700 students, Alvord is above the limit.

Branum said the Texas Education Agency web site has a figure of $89,000. By his own estimate, it will be as high as $110,000.

“There are several ways to accommodate that, if that ends up being the case, and one way is to simply reduce your state aid by that amount,” he said. “That’s the simplest way.”

He noted Alvord has dodged the “Robin Hood” trap for many years.

“Most of the districts around us are Chapter 41 already,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to hold off from that for a long time.

“It’s good that the values are going up, but until the state finance system changes, you can only get so much money. If you go above it, you have to somehow, some way, share it.”

An influx of students is about the only thing that would drive up the weighted ADA and reduce what the district would have to pay.

QUICK MEETING

With board president Vic Czerniak and vice president Jimmy Looney absent, the five-member board quickly disposed of an agenda that, for the first time in months, did not include a closed session. Board secretary Kevin Wood presided.

Principals Bridget Williams, Michael Thurman and Rhett King reported they are interviewing to try and fill the remaining gaps in the faculty, and Williams noted Alvord Elementary is handing out a large number of registration packets.

The board voted to raise breakfast and lunch prices, going to $1.30 for students at all grade levels. Lunch will be $2.50 at the elementary level, $2.75 at the middle and high school levels.

“We are totally dependent on whether the kids eat or not,” Branum said.

The board also approved policies, student handbooks, and contracts for insurance, and services from the Education Service Center.

They also hired three teachers. A synopsis of all the hires who are new for this school year will be included in next week’s Back-to-School coverage for all Wise County districts.

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