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State Lawmakers Discuss Temporary Finance Reform For Harvey-Affected Schools

Ryan E. Poppe

Hurricanes were on the minds of state lawmakers on Tuesday, but they weren't thinking about the ones in the Atlantic. The Senate Finance Committee explored Texas school districts damaged by Hurricane Harvey and what steps to take to help a district rebuild after a storm passes.

Local property taxes make up over 60-percent of a school district’s funding. Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst pointed out when you have a storm that, in some cases, levels entire homes, leaving nothing but a slab of concrete, that can impact the appraisal of those properties, which decreases that local revenue source for rebuilding schools.

“Take Aransas County (Independent School District) — they’ve lost 500 students because there is no housing down there. Then they’re going to have the loss in the next year as you’re looking back, so they are going to look back on property that just has a slab, so all they’re going to be able to tax is just the land,” Kolkorst said.

Committee members examined the overall cost of the 2017 storm, and they discussed what state funds would be available in 2019, including tapping the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, sometimes known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”

They also considered temporarily adjusting the state school finance formula for these districts so that these schools receive more funding from state lawmakers next year.

It's not unprecedented, because in 2009, after Hurricane Ike, legislators made similar adjustments to the formulas to help boost school funding in the months following the storm.

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.