One of the five goals established by the Port Aransas ISD board of trustees is “Responsibly manage all budgetary decisions, keeping the student, staff and community needs central to that process while meeting legal requirements.” This very broad goal includes exploring strategies to increase enrollment, providing quality staff development and providing funds to maintain our facilities for staff and student use. This is not a new goal for our district, but one that we continue to review and address, especially in the area of facilities. We must invest in the repair and maintenance of the buildings, and constantly seek to improve our facilities so they not only provide a healthy and stable learning environment for students and staff but also have great curb appeal for our taxpayers.
Representing our long-term commitment to our facilities, in November 2020, residents of Port Aransas ISD approved a school bond election for the improvement of our schools. The bond secured $5 million for the purpose of providing a safe and secure environment at all campuses, technology upgrading, completing renovations at all campuses and athletic facilities, and continuing the annual repair and maintenance of the fixed assets of the district.
Port Aransas is considered a Chapter 49 district, or a “property wealthy district,” due to the current ratio of school student attendance (weighted average daily attendance) entitlement to the local tax revenue level. Total school property tax is made of two classifications: Maintenance and Operation (M&O) and Interest and Sinking (I&S). PAISD is required to redirect property tax revenue to Texas Education Agency (TEA) on all funds raised by the M&O taxes. For the 2021-2022 school year 76.23 percent of every M&O tax dollar collected is remitted back to TEA. My favorite example of this rule is the purchase of a $90,000 bus. The district would have to collect $378,000 in tax revenue and send $288,000 to TEA to retain $90,000 to purchase the bus. In contrast, all tax dollars collected with I&S tax dollars are retained 100 percent in our district. If the district purchased the same bus with voter approved bond funds, $90,000 of tax revenue is required to purchase a $90,000 bus; no payment to TEA is necessary using bond funds. For this reason, the district has worked to move some purchases, such as vehicles, technology and repairs out of the M&O budget and fulfill those needs with bond funds. This will ensure that more of the money generated from our own community goes directly to benefit our schools and students.
The expenditures which have been completed since November 2020 with bond funds include: upgrade and repair of HVAC (air conditioning system) equipment, construction of the Marlin Innovation Lab at the high school, upgrades to the Olsen Elementary campus providing a secure campus for our young Marlins and replacement of campus furniture. Annual campus major maintenance and repair expenses that have come out of bond money also include library books, repair of band instruments and maintenance supplies and contract services for repairs.
Remaining expenditures still in progress include construction of employee housing, ongoing HVAC repairs, continued safety and security improvements that include installation of vehicle barriers at the front of each campus, replacement of fencing at the tennis courts and softball field and technology upgrades. These are your tax dollars, and bond dollars, at work.
In summary, thank you to the community for your support of the Port Aransas Marlins and their facilities. Our goal is twofold: to “Responsibly manage all budgetary decisions, keeping the student, staff and community needs central to that process while meeting legal requirements;” and to always take care of “your” investment.