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Originally delivered on 4/12/2023 6:35 pm

SUBJECT: Take Action for School Finance

In response to the district's email on school finance, please see further information below.  Click the take action button below for a quick way to email your state representatives and help out SBISD! 

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Families 4 Every Child <>
Date: Wed, Apr 12, 2023 at 9:35 AM
Subject: A Fate to Avoid: A Looming Financial Crisis for Spring Branch ISD--Take Action Today! 

On March 9, 2023, Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Blaine sent an email to parents, colleges and community members pleading for them to call legislators to advocate for $1,000 more on the basic allotment, which currently stands at $6160/student. This email followed an extensive, months-long information campaign that included public meetings at each of the four comprehensive high schools and dozens of smaller meetings hosted by PTAs, community groups and others, all focused on sharing a desperate message with parents and community members: deep budget cuts are coming if the Legislature does not act THIS session.  

Click to email your Texas representatives to add at least $1,000 more to the basic allotment. 

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Why Is Spring Branch ISD Facing a Looming Financial Crisis?

For more than 20 years, Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) has won financial awards for excellent fiscal management. In fact, on September 19, 2022, the district’s Financial Services division was presented with the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Report for its Annual Comprehensive Financial Report. This recognition, awarded by the Government Finance Officers Association, is the highest award for government accounting and financial reporting. So how can a district with a stellar history of financial excellence be facing an uncertain financial future just a few short months later? The answer: the antiquated recapture system.

According to, “Recapture, also known as Robin Hood, allows the State of Texas to remove local property tax dollars from public school districts. Legislators then use these dollars to help balance the rest of the state budget. Recapture began as a limited revenue source for education funding, but it has grown exponentially — now taking nearly $5 billion in property taxes from Texas public school districts per year.”

SBISD is essentially a wealthy district with poor district needs. 

The state currently removes local property tax dollars from only 160 “Chapter 49” districts — districts that are considered “property wealthy” and therefore have “revenue in excess of entitlement” or "recapture." There are more than 1,000 total school districts in the state of Texas.

It is important to note that the state does NOT consider the wealth or poverty of the people within those districts. In SBISD, 57% of families are economically disadvantaged, for example. Despite that, the state will demand $87 million in recapture from SBISD this year — up from $64 million paid last year. And recapture payments will continue to rise each year, driven by property value increases. In fact, any property value increase that drives increases in taxes will be recaptured by the state.

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The district does not benefit at all from a property tax increase. Additionally, the district pays recapture on almost all the 20% homestead exemption that the district offers taxpayers — therefore paying recapture on money it does not even collect

Increases in property tax that drive recapture have led some to question whether the district should actually then lower the tax rate to try to slow the recapture rate. Unfortunately, that strategy would not reduce recapture. The state currently dictates how much the tax rate should be lowered based on property value increases, and the district is responsible for the recapture that results from that rate — even if it didn’t collect any taxes at all.

The state effectively dictates what taxes SBISD has to collect for the state. 

What Might Budget Cuts Look Like?

So with a looming recapture payment of $87 million this year and even more next year, what type of cuts might SBISD be facing? Some hints might lie in the past.

In 2011, Spring Branch ISD had to cut $37 million from the budget due to a state budget shortfall. The cuts resulted in the loss of 350 jobs. Class sizes increased from 22 to 24 in grades K-4 and up to 27 in 5th. Classes in 6-12 increased as well, with some classes ballooning to 40+ students. The district cut intervention specialists, leaving teachers with minimal if any support. Almost all district personnel in charge of curriculum lost their jobs, meaning there was no one for parents to call with questions about which courses and levels might be appropriate for their student. Dyslexia specialists were drastically cut, and the remaining specialists were stretched very thin. The number of elementary school counselors were cut in half, resulting in one counselor for every two elementary schools.

It has taken almost ten years for SBISD to stop the decline in student achievement data caused by the 2011 budget cuts. 

In the words of Dr. Blaine, “It was a disaster.” Student achievement data began to fall. Only in the past few years has the decline stopped. In fact, the last Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) issued by the state shows significant growth in academic achievement — increases that Dr. Blaine credits to two things: focused, clearly aligned goals down to the campus level and the reintroduction of supports that were cut in 2011 over the past five years. Reintroduction of supports was made possible largely because of focused goals and a cash infusion of ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief) funds given to the state by the federal government to help school districts recover from the pandemic.  

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When Will Cuts Begin?

If the legislature does not act this session, discussions about cuts will begin in the fall, according to Associate Superintendent of Finance Christine Porter. The SBISD Board of Trustees will ultimately decide what will and will not be cut.

Dr. Blaine and trustees who have attended information sessions have said that the cuts this time will be different from 2011. For one, they will not want academic performance to suffer the way it did last time. But cuts, if they happen, are expected to be $50 million—more than the $37 million cut in 2011. This time, Dr. Blaine and the trustees hope to focus any cuts in areas that do not directly affect student performance. However, the services and programs that Spring Branch ISD parents have become accustomed to will undergo a significant change, and not for the better.

For perspective, SBISD's budget is approximately $300 million. A $50 million budget cut reduces that budget by 17%. Eighty-seven percent of the budget is spent on personnel, the rest on maintenance. Maintenance expenditures will be seen as generally necessary, thus the brunt of this cut will have to be borne by reducing personnel. No matter what, this will have an effect on our kids' education. Moreover, the argument can be made that there is a premium on residential real estate in the district because of SBISD's hard-earned reputation in education. If education suffers, residential real estate likely suffers as well.

You Are Not Powerless. You Can Help Change the Future.

If we want to mitigate the cuts, you CAN make a difference. Take action today by clicking the button below to tell your Texas representatives to add at least $1,000 more to the basic allotment.  

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