|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - January 2009
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TISD receives $900,000 revenue boost
Trinity Standard - January 2009
TRINITY – It was party time Monday night for the Trinity School Board in more ways than one when they learned the district would receive almost $900,000 in unexpected revenue this year.
During a meeting in which the board was honored as part of Texas School Board Appreciation Month, the trustees received news that errors made over the past two years would net the district an additional $794,000 from the Texas Education Agency.
Superintendent Dr. Bobby Rice also told the board that thanks to the work of Trinity County Judge Mark Evans, the district also should receive an additional $56,000 to $57,000 in mineral rights payments from the U.S. Forest Service.
This is on top of an unbudgeted $32,000 payment the district has received from the U.S. Forest Service for its share of timber sold from the Davy Crockett National Forest.
During the meeting, Rice told the board the TEA error was noticed last fall by school superintendents in the San Augustine, Wells and Vann districts.
“Walter Key, the superintendent in San Augustine, is a friend of mine and he called me and said that we also might have been shorted by TEA,” Rice said.
What the three school superintendents found was an error in the way TEA was distributing Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) money under the so-called Robin Hood school finance program.
As a means of more evenly distributing money between “rich” and “poor” school districts, the wealthy districts are required to purchase WADA from the poor districts or face penalties from TEA.
Rice said Key and the other superintendents felt the TEA had made mistakes in the way their WADA money was calculated.
When they brought the matter to the attention of the TEA officials in Austin, Rice said the superintendents were basically told to “live with it” and that TEA would not correct the errors.
Rice said the superintendents appealed that decision directly to Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, who ruled the error would be corrected and school districts would receive their proper WADA payments.
As a result, Rice said the Trinity Independent School District (TISD) would receive a $395,165 payment for errors made in the 2006-07 school year and $398,784 for miscalculations made in the 2007-08 WADA funds.
“That’s $793,949 that we did not expect to receive,” Rice said.
In addition to the superintendents from San Augustine, Wells and Vann, Rice said the Equity Center in Austin provided a great deal of help by performing research on the matter.
In addition to the windfall from TEA, Rice also explained that additional money would be received from the U.S. Forest Service this year.
The superintendent said the timber and mineral money received by the school was intended to help offset the loss of property tax income created by having large tracts of untaxable federal land inside the county.
Under the formula used by the federal government, half of both the timber and mineral allocations awarded to each county is paid to the county government and the school districts divide the remaining half, based on the amount of federal forest land contained in each district.
Of the four school systems located within Trinity County, TISD receives the smallest share of this money because it has the smallest amount of federal forestland.
Rice explained the unbudgeted $32,000 timber payment came as part of the massive bank bailout bill approved by Congress late last year.
“This program had expired and we did not anticipate getting any timber money this year, but it was included in the bank bill,” he explained.
The mineral money, on the other hand, is a percentage of the money generated from the sale of oil and gas in the national forest.
Rice told the board that the county judge noticed what he believed to be problems with the amount being paid to Trinity County last year and has been working for the past several months to get the payments corrected.
Evans discovered a $506,000 error in the 2008 payments, half of which will go to the county’s road and bridge departments, and the other half to the schools.
TISD’s share of this mistake would be $31,608, Rice said.
In addition, Rice said Evans is working to correct the 2007 payments and while that has not yet been finalized, the superintendent said the district could expect to receive around $25,000.