The Alamo Heights ISD board of trustees convenes on August 22. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

In a year where the State legislature invested more than $11.5 billion in public education, Alamo Heights Independent School District passed a deficit budget.

Trustees approved a $77.3 million general fund budget with a $58,000 shortfall at the district’s Thursday night board meeting. The majority of Alamo Heights’ revenue — $73.4 million — is expected to come from local property taxes. Just $3 million is projected to come from the state.

The small San Antonio district has long been subject to recapture payments – a requirement Texas puts on districts with high property values to return money back to State coffers to be redistributed. Recapture payments, which began in 1993, are often referred to as part of a “Robin Hood” system.

Since that time, the district has sent more than half a billion dollars back to the state, Chief Financial Officer Mike Hagar said. Last year, the district paid about $40 million in recapture.

Alamo Heights officials often point to recapture payments as the reason the district typically adopts a deficit budget. On average, the shortfall totals about $1.8 million, Hagar said Thursday night. 

At the time House Bill 3 passed, the legislation was expected to reduce Alamo Heights’ recapture payments by $7.7 million in fiscal year 2020 and by $8.5 million in fiscal year 2021. 

This year’s $32 million in recapture payments is the district’s single largest expenditure on the approved budget.

House Bill 3 also lowered the school district’s tax rate, reducing the amount of property tax revenue Alamo Heights will collect by about 4.5 percent. 

“[House Bill 3] has been touted as [legislators] saved public school funding,” trustee Ryan Anderson said of the legislature’s actions to pass House Bill 3. “This was a two-year plan [and] there is a bump [in funding] this year but there is no continuity to it.”

Anderson and other trustees expressed doubts that future legislative sessions would include similar infusions of money.

Alamo Heights’ 2019-20 budget includes State-mandated pay increases. Teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors with five or more years of experience will receive a 3.5 percent increase. Those same positions with up to five years experience and all other employees will receive a 3 percent increase.

The district also increased its starting teacher salary for first-year teachers from $50,000 to $52,950.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.