Plano ISD operating deficit decreases after trustees adopt amended 2019-20 budget

Plano ISD revised its budget for the 2019-20 school year to fully account for recent sweeping changes to how Texas funds its public schools.

The district had previously projected it would face an $18 million budget shortfall heading into the 2019-20 school year. District staff now project the deficit will be $16.2 million. This change trims the previously projected deficit by $1.8 million.

The changes to the state’s school funding formulas came as a result of House Bill 3, which was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 11. This bill had several anticipated implications, including teacher salary raises and a decrease in residents’ property tax bills. For schools like PISD, HB3 was not as beneficial as anticipated.

“It’s good that we had some reform—not quite as good for us as we had hoped,” trustee David Stolle said.

The newly adopted budget was brought into effect as an amendment approved by trustees Aug. 6. This budget differs in a number of ways from the projected HB3 effects that PISD made available in late June. These differences include a decrease in recapture payment amounts, as well as a decrease in property tax collections.

The district projects its recapture payment will decrease by $12 million more than previously projected. PISD now projects its recapture payment will be roughly $160 million for the coming year.

Recapture, also referred to as Robin Hood, is a finance tool in which the state redistributes tax revenue from property-wealthy school districts to districts with lower property values. The district would have sent an estimated $255 million in recapture payments before the passage of HB3, and it would have faced a $33 million budget deficit.

“This session was good for public education in the state of Texas,” PISD Superintendent Sara Bonser said. “They could have done nothing and we would be $33 million in the hole."

Additionally, district staff expects it will collect $10.4 million less in property tax revenues than the previously projected amount.

While the PISD's recapture payments are lower than projected, the additional reduction in local property tax collections means the district will not have enough funds leftover to cover the $16.2 million deficit.

Stolle said the district should look to the next legislative session for better outcomes in future years.

“We need to hone in on what our ask is going to be because recapture is still a problem,” Stolle said.

Trustees also approved its detailed employee compensation plan document Aug. 6, which had first been presented in June.

PISD teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians with under six years of experience will receive a 2.5% increase. Those with more than six years of experience will receive a 3% pay increase.

Editor Gavin Pugh contributed to this report.