Senate Finance studies state investments, natural disaster funding, and property tax appraisals
The Senate Finance Committee met on Tuesday to study monitor the implementation of several pieces of legislation passed in 2019 regarding the investment of state funds and natural disaster funding. Click here to view the full agenda . The Committee also spent some time talking about property taxes and property appraisals in general (outside the scope of natural disaster funding).

Investment of State Funds
The Committee was specifically tasked with monitoring the implementation of HB 4388 (relating to the management of the permanent school fund) and HB 4611 (relating to certain distributions to the available school fund).

Representatives of the Legislative Budget Board gave an overview of the interactive graphics available to monitor the state investment of funds .

On behalf of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), Brian Guthrie fielded quite a few questions from the Committee regarding real estate choices for the office space for TRS investors.

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath testified about about the performance of the Permanent School Fund (PSF) and the structure of the PSF's investment oversight. State Board of Education (SBOE) Chairman Keven Ellis testified about the SBOE's role. The PSF is the only fund supervised by an elected board. SBOE Permanent School Fund Committee Chairman Tom Maynard spoke about distributions from the fund and the relationship with the General Land Office (GLO) and specifically the School Land Board (SLB).

Committee members gave much praise to Commissioner Morath and especially the elected members of the SBOE. They also expressed how encouraged they were by the testimony about the working relationship the chief investment officers for the PSF and the GLO. On April 14, the SBOE and SLB will have a joint meeting. All expressed a desire for healthy working relationships in the future.

Natural Disaster Funding
The Committee was specifically asked to monitor the implementation of HB 492 (relating to a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster) and HB 3384 (relating to the comptroller conducting a limited-scope review of an appraisal district located in a disaster area).

The Committee heard testimony about the specific funding those affected by natural disasters have received, and they discussed unintended consequences and laws that may need to be changed to improve that process. Mike Soto, the Chief Appraiser for Aransas County spoke specifically about his recent experience in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Korry Castillo testified on behalf of the Comptroller's office. She spoke to the specific monitoring charges related to natural disasters, but at the request of the Committee Chair, she also spoke more broadly about the appraisal process overall under legislation passed in 2019.

Property Taxes and Appraisal Process
Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) expressed the frustration she is still hearing from constituents about property taxes (even after rates were compressed) and the entire appraisal process as well as the desire for accountability for those with responsibility and oversight for the appraisal process. Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) said he looks forward to some further "fine-tuning" of the appraisal process in 2021.

Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) made the point that the goal of the appraisal process is to appraise at fair market value and that through the Property Value Study conducted by the Comptroller's office, that school districts may be subject to penalty if their local appraiser was determined to have missed the mark. If a local appraiser values property at an amount that is too far below what the state determines to be fair market value, then it is the school district that is punished. Cities and counties are not subject to penalty from this same study because they do not rely on state funding formulas.

Click here to watch the archived video broadcast of the hearing.
Upcoming Legislative Hearings
On Wednesday, March 11, the Senate Education Committee will study their interim charge on Adult Education and they will be monitoring implementation of both SB 11 (school safety) and HB 3, specifically reviewing the impact of the repeal of the GT Allotment.

Public testimony will be taken, and the hearing will be broadcast live .
Port Aransas ISD

We are regularly profiling different member districts to give you an opportunity to learn something you may have in common or to learn something new and unique about your peer districts.

Superintendent: Sharon McKinney
Region: 2
Location: Port Aransas is located on Mustang Island in the area of the Texas coast known as the Coastal Bend. We are about 20 miles from Corpus Christi in Nueces County .

Student Enrollment: Our enrollment hovers just over 500 students.

School Campus Configuration: H.G. Olsen Elementary serves students in preK-5th grades, Brundrett Middle School serves students in grades 6-8, and Port Aransas High School serves students in grades 9-12. Although they are each their own distinct campus, all three schools are located on the same block.

What are your district's points of pride?
  • Our dedicated school board provides effective oversight and enthusiastic support for our school district.
  • Our motto “Marlin Pride Runs Deep” is displayed through our support of and success in athletics, UIL academics, UIL One Act Play, band, and all extracurricular activities, as well as over $300,000 awarded in scholarships to the Class of 2019 by local businesses and organizations.
  • The Port Aransas Education Foundation awards over $100,000 in teacher grants annually to promote innovation.
  • The Marlin Innovation Lab houses our physics and engineering classes while giving students in other content areas hands-on experiences to enhance their learning.
  • UT OnRamps dual enrollment courses and Advanced Placement courses allow students to earn over 20 college credits while still in high school.
  • Marlins In Action, coordinated by community volunteers, supports and encourages our high school students in performing community service.
  • Mentoring Marlins (high school students mentor middle school students) and a partnership where local Coast Guard members mentor elementary students provides support to students.
  • A sensory classroom indoors and a sensory garden outdoors gives all students a comfortable environment for learning and growing.
  • All buses in our transportation fleet have seat belts.
  • Our facilities are well-maintained and instructional technology is effectively used daily in classrooms.

What makes your school district/ community unique?
  • We are located a block from the beach, which provides fun and unique educational opportunities.
  • Our partnership with University of Texas Marine Science Institute gives our students opportunities to work with local scientists to participate in water analysis and erosion long-term experiments.
  • Our city provides a School Resource Officer who is assigned full-time to our school district.
  • Our community support, evidenced not only by financial resources and materials donated but also by the volunteers on campus daily, is phenomenal.

What challenges does your district face?
  • Enrollment is a concern due to high cost of living.
  • Hurricane Harvey caused massive damage to our school district and our entire community and continues to impact enrollment, facilities, and finances.
  • Even after passage of HB 3 reduced it, PAISD still pays 69% of M&O tax collections to the State of Texas.

March 3 Primary early voting ends Friday
E arly voting for the March 3 Primary Election is underway and runs through Friday. If someone doesn't vote early, they can probably expect to encounter lines at the polling place on Election Day, March 3.

There are 57 seats in the Texas House and five seats in the Texas Senate with candidates vying for their party's nomination on the March 3 ballot.

If you are interested to see exactly who is on the ballot (and which races the Texas Tribune has identified as a Race to Watch), you can take a look at the Trib's 2020 March Primary Ballot .

You can also access information on the specific candidates that appear on your personal ballot at Vote411 , provided through the League of Women Voters Education Fund.
Proposed HB 3 Rules
There are proposed Commissioner rules available for comment on the TEA website regarding the Formula Transition Grant . The public comment period on that rule is open through March 9.
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