In October, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD officials announced Mustang-Panther Stadium will undergo an $18 million renovation and $6 million in concrete repairs.
The renovations, which are set to be complete in 2018, include new home-side restrooms, concession stands and spirit shops, improved accessibility, upgraded security features, scoreboard upgrades and a new press box as well as a new overall appearance to match historic Grapevine. Renovations for the visitor side are not included.
“[The upgrades are] going to benefit many families and students for a long period of time,” Superintendent Robin Ryan said. “It impacts our whole community and is a venue we could use to bring people into our community.”
The concrete repairs are funded with bond money, and the renovations are paid through a tax increment financing payout.
Funding of facility renovations
Although GCISD is considered a property-wealth district, after payroll is paid, the district has a minimal amount of revenue left for renovations or maintenance to facilities because of the amount of money the district is required to send back to the state every year. This process is called recapture, or more commonly, Robin Hood.
In 2016-17 the district estimates the recapture payment will be $31 million, an increase of $5.9 million from the 2015-16 school year. The payment to the state is projected to increase by approximately 32 percent to $41 million for the 2017-18 school year.
Chief Financial Officer DaiAnn Mooney said the recapture payment is taken from the maintenance and operations budget, which also pays for teacher salaries, day-to-day operations and facilities. The other district budget category is interest and sinking, or debt service, which is used to pay down bond debt in the district.
After the recapture payment is made, Mooney said 87 percent of the district’s M&O budget goes to teachers’ salaries.
“After we pay our people we don’t have money for facilities,” she said. “We just don’t have enough funds in M&O to have those facilities that our community wants.”
Since 1987, the district has received money for facilities primarily through bond money. The money received through bonds is not subject to recapture, which means 100 percent of the money goes to the district. In May, GCISD voters approved a $249 million bond package, which allocated $6.78 million to cover stadium projects, mainly the replacement of concrete.
“There was a lot of concrete repair that needed to happen out at the stadium just for safety reasons,” Mooney said. “So when the [bond] committee was going through what to put in the bond, they put $6 million in to address the concrete needs. However, that was not enough to renovate it.”
The renovation money comes from money GCISD received through a one-time TIF payout of almost $26 million.
A TIF is a special taxing district used by many local governments statewide to help spur redevelopment and economic development within the community. A TIF is a property tax incentive that publicly finances needed structural improvements and enhances infrastructure within a defined area.
A TIF captures any growth in property tax value over an established value and puts the revenue generated from that increased value into a separate fund. Taxes generated from the captured value are restricted to funding improvements within the TIF area.
GCISD’s TIF money comes from a 1996 agreement the district made with the city of Grapevine to bring development to the Grapevine Mills area.
“The very last debt payment that had to be made was done on Feb. 15,” Mooney said. “We contributed more than what was needed, so we got a refund. It’s kind of like when you withhold more taxes than you owe; at the end of the year you get a refund.”
State law gives districts restrictions on how the money can be spent.
The money must be used within the city limits of Grapevine, benefit the Grapevine Mills area and be a joint-use educational facility.
Ryan said this is why the stadium was chosen as a recipient of the funds.
“We were able to also [use $3 million of the TIF money] for the joint fiber-optic project we have with the city of Grapevine,” Ryan said. “We also used some of the money to purchase a piece of property on Heritage Avenue that’s adjacent to Heritage Elementary School.”
Although the district has allocated all of the money from the Grapevine Mills TIF, GCISD also has TIFs for the Gaylord Texan Resort & Hotel and The Village of Colleyville.
An outdated system
Although the district is able to make renovations and maintain facilities through current bond and TIF money, when those funds run out the district will have to go before voters again to ask for more money for any future needs if the state does not contribute additional M&O funds.
Ryan said the biggest challenge with the Texas school finance system is there is not enough dollars in the system to be able to provide for the level of education the community expects.
“There is simply not enough dollars being put toward education,” he said. “What’s frustrating about that is our class sizes, teacher salaries, number of teachers and those kinds of things are directly related to the dollars that come from the Legislature. We have great kids and we have amazing teachers that continue to do great work in our classrooms, but we are not able to compensate them in the way they deserve and that’s because the state dollars are not there.”
Pay increases for GCISD staff depends on how much revenue is in M&O. Ryan said often there is not enough left after expenditures to give teachers raises. He said taxpayers could raise the M&O tax in order to put more money in the fund, but the more money that goes into the M&O, the more money that gets taken out through recapture. Even with an increase in property values, which leads to GCISD taxpayers contributing more money to M&O, Ryan said there is not enough.
“Our Robin Hood payment continues to increase, and part of that is due to the increase in property values,” he said. “What most people don’t understand is when property values increase, state funding decreases, so it’s an inverse relationship and much of that is because of Robin Hood.”
Because of the state school funding structure, GCISD has not increased the M&O tax rate since 2007.
“We continue to maintain our facilities in a way the community expects from bonds, but the M&O side—where teacher pay comes from, light bills and all of the things that are short-term expenditures—that’s where the school district is really in a bind from an inadequate funding system. It’s an outdated system, and the students in the state of Texas really deserve better.”
Ryan said he hopes the legislative session starting in January will bring about some changes that will ultimately put more money into the M&O.
“We have many years of increased expenses and cost of living continues to go up, and that has not been addressed by the Legislature,” he said. “We are dependent on the Legislature to provide additional revenue.”