Dallas ISD superintendent has mixed feelings about school finance legislation

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Dallas ISD officials said they have mixed feelings about the school finance legislation passed by the Texas Legislature and set to be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

While it does give some financial relief to districts, what lawmakers passed also contains one rule about how budgets can be created that superintendents cried would crush public education.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said the bill gets a passing grade from him, as it helps the district’s bottom line.

“For Dallas ISD we're better off. We're going to get at least $70 million new dollars to help fund some initiatives, so it'll help us with some things that we want to get done for our students and staff,” Hinojosa said.

But, a new requirement would have districts using current-year property appraisals for setting budgets.

“I’m still concerned about that,” Hinojosa said. “That is one of the biggest disappointments we had.”

About 60 superintendents and other groups sent a letter to lawmakers a few weeks ago, saying that "using current year property values to set budgets would be devastating to our school districts.”

The letter went on to say that districts wouldn’t even know appraised values until after budgets had been set. Hinojosa says lawmakers tried to compensate for that.

“They made it up by adding to the basic allotment, so they knew it was going to cost districts like us and Richardson and Plano and many other school districts. But I think they did mitigate it somewhat, but now we have to figure out how to execute this in a timely way,” Hinojosa said.

The new plan does lower, for now, what the district-  must send to the state under recapture or the “Robin Hood” funding plan.

“Under the current year we're paying $65 million, we're projected to pay $180 million next year. Under this proposal, we're only going to send less than $20 million to the state, but the out years that could grow again, so we'll see how that works out,” Hinojosa said.

As for teachers, librarians and counselors set to get a pay boost under the new law, there’s still a lot of work to do for the district.

“Teachers who have over five years of experience will be eligible up to about $4,000 of salary increase and benefits. We don’t know the details, we're analyzing those details right now,” Hinojosa said.

The fiscal year for school districts begins in July and doors open for learning in August.