Texas Education

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Letter from Humble ISD Board Members

Posted by Texas Education on June 28, 2008

A Letter to the parents, employees, and taxpayers of Humble Independent School
District:

Over the last several weeks, we have received literally thousands of e-mails from
you about the current financial situation of Humble ISD and next year’s budget.
Although we have tried to respond to as many of you as possible, we think that it
is important, as people elected by you and as trustees of your tax dollars and the
education provided by this district, to give you more detail about the district’s
current situation so that you know what we are up against. We decided that an
open letter is the best way to convey what we know.
It is beyond dispute that Humble ISD currently is facing a budget crisis. If we
continue current operations without change, Humble is faced with a projected
shortfall of $25 million for the 2008-09 school year. The district has made budget
cuts totaling over $17.5 million over the last seven years while at the same time
educating an additional 8,000 students, but these previous cuts were targeted to
limit the impact on education and how the district operates.
Indeed, many with children in the district should not have noticed a change in
service, and our student’s test scores are improving yearly. The cuts that we are
currently facing, however, will require ending some programs, classes and
extracurricular activities that Humble has offered for decades.
In short, the cuts we are being forced to make will be felt across the district and at
every level.

We are in this crisis because of the current way our state funds public education.

Humble receives two major sources of funding: funding from the state and funding
from local property taxes.
There is a commonly held belief that our district gets the benefit of annual
property appraisal increases. This is incorrect. For every dollar that our district
increases in property value, the state takes away a dollar in state aid.
So, our district does not benefit from the increases in our property values every
year. Therefore, the only way to increase our funding to meet our budget shortfall
is to either get additional funding from the state or raise property taxes.
The state funding system is based primarily on a formula known as the Weighted
Average Daily Attendance (WADA). Students with additional education needs are
weighted for funding purposes, which recognizes the additional costs of educating
these students. The formula, however, produces inequitable results, which hurts
districts such as ours.
For example, Humble’s target revenue per WADA is $4,937, while Katy ISD, a
comparable school district, has a target revenue per WADA of $5,174. If Humble
had the same target revenue per WADA as Katy, Humble would receive an
additional $9.2 million in state aid in 2008-09.
Notably, our neighbor, Sheldon ISD, has a target revenue per WADA of $6,129.
We would receive an additional $46 million next year if we had Sheldon’s target
revenue per WADA. This is not an equitable funding system.
Compounding this problem is that House Bill 1, which was passed by the state
legislature in 2005 to provide property tax relief to homeowners and additional
targeted state funding, has effectively frozen our district’s level of operating
revenue at the 2005-06 level. Therefore, we will not receive any additional state
funding to meet our budget shortfall.
While our situation is dire, Cy-Fair ISD, which has a target revenue per WADA of
$4,489, has been forced into a hiring freeze and is laying off teachers, among other
drastic cuts. While we are not in Cy-Fair’s situation yet, if the legislature does not
adjust the method of determining WADA, our future will be the same.
In addition to the inequitable WADA formula, Humble is faced with other
problems that affect our bottom line. Humble has grown 26.7 percent in the last
five years. This growth requires our district to build more schools, which, in turn,
requires us to pay for and operate these new schools. The state funding system
does not help us at all to deal with these impacts arising from our growth.
Additionally, the legislature has not increased the transportation allotment to
school districts since 1984. This funding freeze is of great concern because the
cost of fuel has increased four-fold during this time. Along with the need for a
growing bus fleet and associated maintenance costs, transportation expenses have
become a huge drain on our budget. While we have managed to be efficient with
the building and transportation funds, all of the taxpayers are suffering from the
increased tax burden because of our fast growth.
With the prospect of no additional funds from the state, we are left with only two
options: (1) cut $25 million from the budget or (2) cut $9 million from the budget
and raise property taxes by 13 cents per $100 valuation.
A cut of $25 million will require the elimination of some critical staff positions
(such as nurses or librarians), some sports teams, other extracurricular activities
and increasing the number of students our teachers will have to teach. (You can
receive a full list of the proposed cuts at the Board of Trustees meeting on June
17.) With a 13-cent tax increase, we will still have to make drastic cuts, but we
will be able to preserve some programs that make our district competitive with our
peer districts and that parents have come to expect.
If the tax increase is passed, Humble’s rate will be essentially the same as Katy
ISD’s current rate: $1.53. Notably, Humble’s tax rate was $1.64 in 2006. So, even
with the a proposed tax rate increase of 13 cents, the overall tax rate for our
district will still be 11 cents lower than the 2006 rate.
The decision to raise taxes by 13 cents, however, is not one for the Board of
Trustees. It will be a decision that the voters in the district will have to make at the
polls. Some have criticized the Legislature for putting this decision into the hands
of the voters. We disagree.
We view this vote as an opportunity for our community to have a direct voice in
how we will manage our district. Indeed, it is an opportunity for our community to
decide the scope of education provided by our district.
Regardless of what you decide regarding a tax increase, everyone should contact
our state officials (not just our local officials, who are well aware of our
problems), to make changes in the next session of the legislature.
Let them know that WADA needs to be more equitable, that transportation
allotment needs updating, and that fast-growth school districts, such as Humble,
need help to meet the demands of our growing population.
We are doing everything we can to find ways to stretch the dollars in the budget.
Moreover, we are taking the concerns that we have received about the various
programs and positions that parents and employees want to preserve into careful
consideration.
We understand the importance and direct impact these programs have on
education and would prefer that they were not at risk of being cut. Indeed, our
preference would be to pass a budget that satisfies everyone; however, it is simply
impossible to do so. The sad reality is that the way this district has traditionally
operated is going to change.
In addition to hearing concerns about programs and positions in the district, we
also have heard from many people with complaints that we are mismanaging the
district, that we do not care about kids or education, and that we do not understand
the needs of the employees.
Contrary to these complaints, we are managing the situation as best we can, we do
care, and we understand the needs of our employees.
Like nearly all of you, we have children and grandchildren that have gone through
or are currently being educated in the district. Many of us moved here because of
the schools. We are proud of the job that our teachers and administrators do with
what the legislature currently provides. We serve because we believe education is
critically important to our future, know the impact our district can have on our
property values, and want to improve the district for everyone in our community.
We will continue to do everything we can to protect our district, our community,
and the education of our children.

Feel free to contact any of us directly if you have any questions. You can obtain
more information at the district’s website.
Humble ISD Board of Trustees
David Martin, President
Dan Huberty, Vice President
Keith Lapeze, Secretary
Bonnie Longnion, Parliamentarian
Charles Cunningham, Member
Brent Engelage, Member
Robert Scarfo, Member

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