A budget workshop recently held by Midland ISD officials revealed that the district could be paying around $56 million to the state’s recapture program this upcoming school year — a $15 million increase from last year’s bill.

The state’s Chapter 41 Wealth Equalization program, also known as “Robin Hood,” requires school districts deemed as “property-rich” to pay into a fund that redistributes dollars to “property-poor” districts. Payer districts are determined by the taxable value of property within their boundaries, divided by the number of students in weighted average daily attendance (WADA). The amount owed is then calculated based on the district’s numbers from the prior year.

For the 2017–2018 school year, MISD sent approximately $41 million to Austin, making them the ninth highest paying Chapter 41 district in the state. The top three consist of Austin, Houston, and Plano ISDs who pay $544.5 million, $215 million, and $154.5 million, respectively.

In the meantime, some school districts benefitting from Robin Hood dollars have been under heavy scrutiny for superfluous spending.

For example, La Joya ISD – which receives over $200 million in state aid annually – just opened the state’s first school-owned water park and sports complex. The $20 million, 215-acre compound was approved by the school board without a bond election and includes a 90,000 square-foot waterpark, a planetarium, 27-hole golf course, tennis courts, and a natatorium.

With the list of Chapter 41 districts growing and situations like LJISD’s water park making headlines, the state’s Robin Hood program is gaining more and more critics who are turning to state lawmakers for change. As a result, school finance reform remained a top issue during the last legislative session, and there are no signs indicating that will change when they reconvene in January.

Until then, MISD is reportedly predicting an IOU of up to $125 million over the next two school years ($56 million in 2018–19 and up to $69 million in 2019–20).

The school board is scheduled to host another budget workshop May 23, followed by a public hearing on the budget and proposed tax rate on June 18.

Lauren Melear

Lauren Melear leads the West Texas Bureau of Texas Scorecard. When not working, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, as well as cooking, working out, traveling to the hill country, and cheering on the fightin' Texas Aggies.