Although dire economic forecasts and predictions of a major stock market crash can be heard on late night radio, the revenue picture and climate for education funding in Texas looks better than ever. The rosey revenue picture was painted by Joe Wisnoski of Moak Casey and Associates at a recent meeting of the Harris County Department of Education School Finance Council and Gulf Coast chapter of the Texas Association of School Business Officials. Oil and gas revenues, plus tax collections that exceeded the controller’s estimates, have created a higher amount of funds available to the legislature than ever before.
“We’re looking at a legislative session that has an extraordinarily high amount in the rainy day fund and extraordinarily high amount of eligible funds to allocate in the general fund in the state,” said Wisnoski.
Public education will probably cost the legislature less in the next biennium than in the past because of increasing property tax values. So there will be decreased demand for education funding at the same time that “revenue is going through the roof,” according to Wisnoski. He said the legislature will have a great opportunity to reinvest money and increase support for education in the next legislative session.
“So they have the money – the question is ‘are they willing to spend it?’” asked Wisnoski.
Contributing to the positive revenue picture is voter approval of the majority of proposed bond elections in November. Of the education bond election proposals, 81% passed: 43 of 49 school district elections and all four community college issues passed, which represented 96% of the bond proposals on the ballot, according to the November 2014 Bond Election Report prepared by David Webb, first vice president, Texas Municipal Finance Division, George K. Baum and Company.
The legislature faces other challenges in addition to education funding, including hearing proposals from newly elected officials who have pledged to reduce property taxes. Wisnoski listed major issues for this legislative session as
· Achievement school districts
· Taxpayer savings grants
· Opportunity scholarships (Vouchers)
· Virtual schools
· Charter Expansion
· Property Tax, Transparency
“We have a lot of resources that we haven’t had for some time and a lot of demands other than public education,” said Wisnoski. “And we have a district court saying we have a constitutional mandate to do something. It’s going to take a while for everything to shake out.”
Summary article provided by Harris County Department of Education, Client Development Services. To be added to the HCDE School Finance Council listserve, send an email to JAmezcua@HCDE-Texas.org. For more information on HCDE, go to www.WhoIsHCDE.org.