Budgets, Tax Rates, and Elections
With all the changes the Pandemic has brought to our world, it may be easy to forget some of the changes HB 3 set in motion less than a year ago. But it's time to be thinking about your budget, tax rate, and possibly an election in November amidst all the changes that legislation put in place.

The Commissioner's rule regarding the calculation of Tier 1 tax rates for the 2020-21 school year and beyond is now final. According to this new rule, school districts will be expected to complete a survey sometime between July 18-August 1 to submit the July 25 certified property values for tax year 2019 and 2020 values along with local exemption amounts. The agency will use that information to calculate Tier 1 tax rates and turn those around to districts by August 5. That creates a possible two-day turnaround to post the public meeting required for any districts that may need to call a Voter-Approval Tax Rate (VATR) Election in November.

As you work your way through the process of adopting budgets and tax rates, there are a lot of new rules and timelines to be aware of under the new laws put in place by HB 3. To help with that, we have compiled a document to help navigate those timelines and procedures for both districts with a July 1 fiscal year and those with a fiscal year that begins September 1.
A few things to consider...
As you begin thinking about what the future may hold for the next school year and what budget assumptions you should make, here are just a few things to consider:

Even without a special session, cuts are still possible during the 2020-21 school year. While we hope this is not the case, please keep in mind that it is possible that the Texas Legislature could convene in January 2021 and adopt a supplemental appropriations bill that implements cuts to the school year/budget year already underway. State leaders are already calling for state agencies to cut sizable percentages of their budgets during FY 21, much less the cuts they may call for in FY 22 and beyond. Prepare your budget while keeping in mind that mid-year cuts are possible.

Be wary of treating federal dollars as "new money." Regardless of when your district may receive federal dollars under the CARES Act, please keep in mind that we don't yet know how that will all play out. As we have seen done in the past, the state could adopt a supplemental appropriations act that makes it so the federal dollars schools receive under the CARES Act are not new dollars, but a method of finance for the state to use to fund their share of funding for schools. That translates into less cuts than schools would otherwise experience, but those funds would not be "new money" to spend above budgeted amounts.

Your attendance rate could be lower next year. We know how attendance will be counted for the remainder of this school year, but we don't know if all students will return next year after this home school experiment. And even students who do return may be more likely to stay at home more days due to fear or heath concerns. We don't know that the school year we hope to kick-off in the fall will be a "normal" school year unaffected by COVID-19.

Your tax collection rate may be lower than usual. While the legal standard is that property values be based on the value as of January 1, 2020, it's likely we will see an increase in protests and an increase of those who can't or won't pay their taxes on schedule. This could have an impact on your recapture and your cash flow.

Attempt to make shallow cuts over time, rather than deeper, more hurtful, cuts when required. A lean budget now that helps to build a healthy fund balance for use during the 2021-22 school year and beyond would be prudent. Due to years of under-funding, this will be challenging, but necessary.
We have updated a the talking points regarding how the Fiscal Downturn Will Impact Public Education Funding
the with the latest information. You can use this information to help explain the current expectations for the Texas economy and the impact that will likely have on school funding. These talking points may be helpful as you work through the budget-setting process to explain things to your school staff and community.
Please mark your calendar and make plans to join us for our Legislative Update & Planning Event on Wednesday, June 10, beginning at 10:00 a.m . Rather than coming together in person, this year (along with the rest of the world), we will be gathering virtually. We will have time for some updates on all the latest, an opportunity to break out into smaller groups for discussion, and a chance to come together for a conversation about priorities as we look toward 2021. Place a hold on your calendar for now and we will be sending more details soon.
What's new in this new world?
This Texas Education Agency is regularly updating their Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Guidance , so keep checking there regularly for access to all the latest information.

A few new updates to highlight include:

  • Attendance & Enrollment FAQs (Updated April 21, after it was known that no schools would be taking in-person attendance for the remainder of this school year)

Teachers Can
The Texas School Coalition is proud to be among the 75 partners supporting the launch of #TeachersCan, which is a statewide effort led by Raise Your Hand Texas to thank and encourage teachers and elevate the profession overall. You can find resources, ideas, and more information at teacherscan.org , including ways to thank and nominate teachers for special recognition and rewards.
Thank you to our annual sponsors!
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