Bills filed to extend state ASATR funding

Bills filed to extend state ASATR fundingSeveral bills have been filed for this legislative session that could extend the expiration date of a state program in which Frisco ISD derives about 10 percent of its annual revenue.

The Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction, which has provided funding for many school districts across Texas, is set to expire Sept. 1.

According to district officials, losing ASATR funding would set the district back a projected $30 million in the 2017-18 school year.

School finance reform is set to be a priority during this 85th legislative session, according to legislators. However, FISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon said the district cannot expect to receive additional funding from the state and must take care of its own situation.

In the early days of the bill-filing period, at least two House lawmakers and one senator introduced bills to extend ASATR funding.

One piece of legislation is House Bill 527, which proposes a two-year extension of the program through the 2018-19 school year. Another, HB 308, proposes a nine-year extension through the 2026-27 school year.

HB 308 was authored by State Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, and HB 527 was authored by Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin. Both bills have been referred to the public education committee.

“Several of the school districts in my district received ASATR funding, and actually [for] a couple of the school districts, it’s well over a third of their budget,” Burrows said. “So if [ASATR] were to expire and they were not to receive the funding going forward after 2017, it would be extraordinarily detrimental to them.”

Another piece of legislation filed Jan. 6, Senate Bill 419, proposes a six-year extension through the 2022-23 school year. State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, authored SB 419, which has been referred to the education committee.

FISD board President Anne McCausland said she and other board members plan to go to Austin to speak to legislators about school finance reform but are not depending on any changes being made by legislature.

“We have to move forward, and we’re doing everything we can as a board and as a district to engage our FISD community,” she said. “Keeping our parents, community members and teachers informed about what’s going on in Austin and how it impacts Frisco ISD is important.”

FISD has been working on its budget by holding budget workshops and receiving community feedback to find a solution to offset the $30 million loss.

During one of the budget meetings, Lyon said there should be no temporary cuts in the budget and that any change made should be permanent, and something the district could support long term.

Any decision made should be aligned with the district’s mission and core values, he said.

By Nicole Luna
Nicole Luna is the Senior Reporter for Frisco. She covers development, transportation, education, business and city government. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Spanish from The University of Texas at Arlington and has been with Community Impact Newspaper since June 2015.