Assistant Superintendent John Allison gave a budget update to the Keller ISD board of trustees during their regular meeting April 25. Among the concerns Allison outlined was a $27.43 million shortfall that district officials are projecting for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

The details

Allison said that the following items contributed to the shortfall:
  • $3.94 million in a utilities increase
  • $4.72 million increase in transportation/fuel costs
  • $2.15 million increase in property insurance
  • $3.2 million lost after the expiration of COVID-19 relief funds
  • $1.15 million increase in emergency funds for facility repairs
  • $3 million elimination of transfer from workers compensation fund
  • $4.13 million lost from reduced student enrollment projections for 2024-25
  • $5.14 million in student technology
A closer look

Allison brought up how much the state’s lack of financial support is affecting Keller ISD’s ability to have the proper resources to support the education of its students.

“The state’s failure to meet their constitutional obligation to education is what is driving not only Keller’s budget issues, but school districts across the state of Texas,” Allison said.

Allison added that the state has not increased funding since 2019. The current basic allotment per student is $6,160. To simply compensate for inflation since 2019, Allison said the basic allotment would need to be $7,100.

“The district is preparing to enter their fifth budget cycle without any increase in revenues," Allison said. "That’s almost unimaginable."

Zooming in

Allison said that the district’s revenue stream comes from the following three sources:
  • 57% comes from local (through property taxes)
  • 42% comes from the state
  • 1% comes from the federal government
He added that federal and state funding does come with strings attached.

“Dollars for nutrition services must be spent on nutrition services,” Allison said. “Dollars for special education must be spent on special education.”

Allison also took the opportunity to clarify some of the misconceptions about funding that schools depend on from the local level. He said that many district residents believe that as their property taxes go up, so does funding for Keller ISD. Allison said that is inaccurate.

“The state has removed local control over districts’ budgets,” Allison said. “They have capped what local school districts can raise through local property taxes. Any funding from property taxes that exceeds where we are capped by the state goes back to the state.”

That state provision–commonly referred to as Robin Hood—also affects future state funding for education.

“If there’s excess, it reduces the state’s portion of what they fund for public education,” Allison said.

Allison said that district officials are hearing from the Tarrant Appraisal District that early projections show property taxes will increase 7% next year.

“That does not mean Keller ISD is getting 7% more of that money,” Allison said. “Our revenue will stay flat. It will be contingent upon the state formula, [student] enrollment and average daily attendance. Those are the three components that dictate how much Keller ISD has to spend.”

Allison added that when residents who have increases on their property tax bills see a funding increase for the school district, Keller ISD gets the same amount, and the excess goes back to the state.

“That is why our state is sitting on $50 billion worth of surplus that is not flowing back to school districts,” Allison said.

While two major components of the school funding crisis is basic allotment and Robin Hood, another factor is how the state computes how much each district receives. That amount is based on average daily attendance, which Allison said only seven states still use and what he called an “archaic format of funding.” He said the allotment is not given to schools based on how many students are enrolled, but rather how many students show up.

As a result, Allison pointed out the amount of revenue lost as a result of funding based on average daily attendance over the last three years was as follows:
  • $1.9 million in the 2019-20 school year
  • $4.68 million in the 2020-21 school year
  • $4.52 million in the 2021-22 school year
Allison gave an example of just how much average daily attendance can affect the district using the decrease in attendance during the recent solar eclipse.

“Our average daily attendance dropped to 85%,” Allison said. “That [one day] cost the district $250,000.”