A recent article in the Houston Chronicle said that some of the schools in South Texas have been designated under state standards as “wealthy.”
Eight rural schools, according to the Chronicle, have reached that designation with tax revenues for the Eagle Ford shale energy boom. Texas has a system of sharing rich districts’ tax money with poor districts to help reduce disparities.
School officials said the change in designation was unfortunate since the districts were just beginning to see their finances improve.
Property values in the Carrizo Springs Independent School District, according to the article, went from $441 million in 2010 to nearly $2.5 billion this year. Similarly property values in the Cotulla Independent School District soared from $534 million in 2010 to $2.3 billion this year.
But the situation has its downfalls. Cited in the article was Cotulla Superintendent Jack Seals who said along with the booming wages associated with the gas boom is creating competition that he just can’t stand up to. He said he is having a difficult time filling school custodian and cafeteria worker positions.
“It’s really hard to try to compete with the private sector at this time because the oil field wages are skewing the competition rate,” Seals said in the Chronicle.
Housing is another issue created for the school’s workers. Since oilfield workers are taking up housing, three Cotulla school employees are living in trailers on school property.
School officials said the change in designation was unfortunate since the districts were just beginning to see their finances improve
Deborah Dobie, superintendent of the Carrizo Springs told the Chronicle that under the sharing system, she expects her district to deliver $8 million or $9 million to the state next year.
Seals predicted his district would have to give up as much as $15 million next year, telling the Chronicle it would “hit us like a hammer.”
Another downfall of the situation is the “recapture rate.” In the article, Dan Casey, a partner with school finance experts Moak, Casey and Associates, warned fluctuating property values could create problems. He said that the state uses prior-year values to determine how much “wealthy” districts must surrender, so a sudden drop in value might not be accounted for since the so-called recapture rate would be based on the previous year.