MISD considers passing an unbalanced budget

MARFA – A proposed budget is nearing approval by the Marfa school board, but it isn’t a balanced budget, as Bianca Gonzalez, the district’s business specialist, revealed in a budget meeting on August 19.

The board will convene again on Monday to vote on the proposed 2019-2020 budget. Gonzalez has struggled to propose a budget that satisfies the board, particularly in the wake of Texas’ recently passed school funding law, House Bill 3.

The budget workshop last Monday proposed slashing the school’s budget over $188,000 from the previous year. Even with those potential cutbacks, changes in state funding and local taxes are pushing the school board toward reaching into reserves to cover over $425,000 in expenses this year.

The board used foresight two years ago when it stashed money to pay for future “recapture,” a “Robin Hood” policy where wealthier districts send some collected tax dollars into the state’s coffers to be redistributed across Texas’ education system. But at the time, the board couldn’t predict that HB 3, passed this year, would rearrange the funding received from the state.

According to Superintendent Oscar Aguero, the goals of HB 3 are to provide property tax relief, fund education and reinforce school safety.

Aguero said HB 3 compressed the school district’s tax rate from $1 to $0.93, offering savings to taxpayers but leaving the school budget slimmer. Local revenues are estimated to decline over $314,000 this year, and state revenues more than $130,000.

While the state’s bill may have achieved property tax relief, there wasn’t a huge wealth of funding provided for education in Marfa. New funding sources for kindergarten through third grade and dyslexia services were added, but old allotments for high school and Gifted and Talented programs were deleted in the 2019 bill.

“Much like in any system or any budget, they didn’t create more money. They just moved it around,” Aguero said.

The third prong of HB 3, school safety, was a meager offering for the Marfa school. The state gave $2,000 for school safety. But the estimate for push-button entrances alone was $25,000, and the small sum of $2,000 “isn’t doing anything for us,” Aguero said”

“We’re projecting a deficit of $425,000. We’re just projecting for the worst case scenario,” he said. He hopes the conservative projections will mean the school receives more revenue from the state and local funds, and won’t actually have to dip into $425,000 of the school’s reserves. The board will vote on the proposed budget Monday at 6pm at the Marfa High School boardroom.