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Some Crossroads school districts earn 'wealthy' status

By Sonny Long
May 12, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.


PRELIMINARY CHAPTER 41 SCHOOL DISTRICTS

The following school districts have received preliminary notification of potential Chapter 41 status for the 2013-14 school year. Official final notifications will be made by the Texas Education Agency in July.

SCHOOL DISTRICTS

• Austwell-Tivoli

• Calhoun

Cuero

• Goliad

Gonzales

• Hallettsville

• Matagorda

• Meyersville

• Moulton

• Nordheim

• Nursery

• Palacios

• Refugio

• Shiner

• Sweet Home

• Westhoff

• Yorktown

• Vysehrad

K-8 DISTRICTS MAY GET BREAK

The smaller school districts - those that have only kindergarten through eighth grade - could be taken off the Chapter 41 list when the final notifications are made in July.

Part of the state's formula in achieving the Texas Education Agency's Chapter 41 "wealthy district" status is tuition paid to the district by transfer students.

"I will notify TEA that we do not charge tuition for our transfer students in K-eight," said Randy Meyer, superintendent in the Sweet Home school district. "They will recalculate and will likely inform us that we are not Chapter 41. This has been the case for the past several years."

The same will likely occur in the Meyersville school district in DeWitt County.

"The Meyersville ISD does not currently charge tuition for transfer students and this places our wealth below the threshold for being designated as a Chapter 41 school," said superintendent Tina Herrington.

Herrington said the issue will be discussed at the May 14 Meyersville school board meeting.

More Crossroads school districts have been preliminarily designated as Chapter 41 districts under the state's Robin Hood plan.

Eighteen school districts in the area received preliminary notification Monday from the Texas Education Agency that they are now considered as Chapter 41 or "wealthy" districts for the 2013-14 school year.

Notification of a district's final official status will be released in July.

In the Cuero school district, superintendent Jim Haley said planning for the change has already begun.

"We are gearing up for this change in funding," Haley said. "We will likely have an election in November along with a bond election."

Haley said the change would require even greater diligence by the district dealing with the budget.

"I would anticipate the impact to be minimal for year one," he said. "CISD has been able to put money back into our fund balance in previous years, so we might be a little tighter this year.

"Salaries and other expenses continue to rise, and with the additional cost of doing business, we will have to be vigilant not to exceed our budget and have to dip into our fund balance."

If approved by the Cuero school district voters, a capital improvement bond might be a way to keep some of the funds local as bonded indebtedness, said Haley.

Only operations and maintenance funds can be recaptured by the state.

"We are in the planning stage right now, but we have meetings scheduled every other week with our facility planning committee to discuss projects," Haley said.

Most of the designated districts are in the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas field play, causing property values to increase.

The Shiner school district has also been notified of its preliminary status as a Chapter 41 school.

"It looks like we will be in the same boat," said Superintendent Trey Lawrence. "If so we would have an election in November. As far as the budget, I will not know anything until July, when I receive our certified values."

When the wealth of a school district, as determined by property values, as it relates to the student enrollment exceeds a threshold determined by a state formula, that district is then subject to having funds "recaptured" by the state.

State law provides five options for that recapture. A school board can narrow those choices down before an election is conducted, then the voters in a school district have the power to decide which remaining option to choose.

Chapter 41 is something the Goliad school district has been dealing with for six years.

"We have been in this situation for so long that we have learned to live with it," said Goliad Superintendent Christy Paulsgrove.

"We do work hard to keep our enrollment up (no charge for transfers). Higher enrollment decreases the wealth per student thereby causing our payment to decrease."

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