At the Leander ISD Board of Trustees regular meeting on January 13, the board addressed next steps to address growth. The district educates more than 42,000 students at its 44 campuses and estimates 9,000 new students added within the next decade.
One of the top items on the agenda last week was a dissection of the failed November bond election. The district’s community relations staff conducted post-election telephone surveys and workshops aimed at how well the issues related to the bond election were communicated to voters, teachers and parents.
The staff has also examined voter turnout by precinct and campus in an effort to determine who voted for or against the bond and, where possible, why they voted the way they did. Trustees heard the results of this study during last week’s meeting.
Trustees also considered next steps to address growth.
The district will take steps to consider districtwide attendance zoning changes for the 2023-24 school year, but not the plans created in the zoning exercise done in December. The first step will be establishing criteria to guide the discussion. Those criteria determine the focal points for zoning decisions, including:
- Relieve overcrowding, reduce class size, reduce student-to-teacher ratio.
- Proximity to school, keeping neighborhoods together.
- Minimizing change without rezoning students multiple times.
- Keeping feeder patterns as pure as possible (elementary schools to middle schools to high schools).
- Building efficiency.
- Leave existing programs at the campuses they are located.
“This is going to be a conversation that’s ongoing,” said Gloria Gonzalez-Dholakia, LISD board vice president. “We know that in the high-growth areas there will be re-zoning (as we open new schools). I would like us to consider parameters for those high-growth areas so that we’re not moving the same students multiple times. We talked about that at the last rezoning and we created some rules around that last time, so just continuing that process.”
The district’s annual demographic report predicts Leander ISD to add nearly 2,000 new students in 2022. It expects the next decade will add 9,000 new students, based on research done by Populations and Survey Analysts.
Based on the amount of time needed for planning and considering addressing crowded schools through rezoning, the district anticipates pushing off its next bond election until May 2023.
Also at last week’s LISD meeting, the board reviewed the next budget cycle with approval of 2022-23 budget parameters and discussions on Texas School Finance.
Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn led a comprehensive review of state school funding, including what triggers recapture and how an increase in the Maintenance & Operations (M&O) tax rate generates additional funding for operations. The conversation centered on:
- the mechanisms of school finance in Texas under HB3,
- the district’s movement towards paying into the state’s system of recapture (Chapter 49) of excess funds as property values continue to rise, and
- the need to hold an Attendance Credit Election.
According to the state funding formula, as the district’s property values grow, the district produces what the state refers to as “excess local revenues”. When the district’s property values generate too much “excess local revenues” the district must send the excess to the state via recapture. Depending on property value growth for 2022, this requirement to pay recapture could occur as soon as the next school year. Those funds would be paid back to the state out of the M&O budget. In order to supplement the lost revenue and continue to fund salaries, teachers, and programs, the district could look to a Voter Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE) election to keep the tax rate the same while generating more money for operations.
Trustees approved the budget assumptions and parameters that will be used as a starting point in building the 2022-2023 budget, including:
- Student enrollment of 43,720; moderate growth model
- Average daily attendance rate of 95% (reduced from 96%)
- Property value growth based on 18%
- 2% pay increase for staff and $5 million for pay adjustments
- Campus per-student allocations are maintained
- Funds to open Elementary 29 in 2022–23
- $6 million for major maintenance projects
- M&O tax rate of $.8546 and I&S (Interest and Sinking) tax rate of $.4650
- Budget parameter of 4% (level of deficit approval)
State revenues are calculated under HB3 provisions, and enrollment numbers are based on PASA’s 2022-2023 moderate growth scenario.
Much of this report came from Leander ISD’s Board Briefs at news.leanderisd.org/board-briefs-aug-5-2021