News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Frustrated North Texas school districts signal they will end recapture payments to state

Keller ISD trustees sit at a long desk during the board's Sept. 11, 2023, special meeting.
Keller ISD
The Keller ISD school board meets on Sept. 11, 2023, to vote on a resolution to end its recapture payment to the state.

Two North Texas school districts are pushing back on the state’s recapture law, saying the funds should instead go to support local students.

In a 5-1 vote during a special meeting Monday night, Keller ISD’s school board voted to stop paying recapture money to the state next year. Also on Monday, Carroll ISD’s board discussed doing the same.

Under recapture, also known as Robin Hood, property-wealthy districts — such as Keller, Carroll, Plano and Dallas — are required to send excess property tax revenue to the state, which distributes it property-poor districts. In a state where local property taxes help fund a local district’s school system, districts without valuable, taxable properties benefit from the redistribution.

But after sending millions of dollars to Austin over the years, Keller ISD is saying enough.

“We haven't gotten a single penny to cover the cost of inflation or any sort of funding whatsoever to help offset teacher pay raises," board president Charles Randklev said. "And yet we're just going to send money back and be OK with it, I think is, is problematic.”

The district already made this year’s required payment, opting to purchase close to $2.6 million in attendance credits, one of a handful of alternativesallowed under the recapture law.

But the resolution approved Monday states that the district “does not intend to delegate the authority to Interim Superintendent John Allison or other District administrator to obligate the District under Chapter 49 of the Texas Education Code for any payment to be made for the excess of the District’s entitlement, if any, for the 2024-2025 school year.”

Text of a resolution stating Keller ISD will not give authority to district officials to make a recapture payment in the 2024-25 school year.
Keller ISD
Text of a resolution stating Keller ISD will not give authority to district officials to make a recapture payment in the 2024-25 school year.

Trustee Ruthie Keyes was the lone ‘no’ vote.

“I think if we don't make this (payment), then what are we saying to people, our children, or our community? Well, if we don't like something, we don't pay it. I would never tell one of my kids, ‘You don't have to pay your bills if you don't want to.’

“That's what it is. I mean, it's a bill,” she said. “Do I like it? No, I certainly don't. But it's there. I think what we're telling people is we don't have to follow the law.”

Keyes said she fears non-payment of recapture would invite a lawsuit from Texas.

“I just think the money that is going to be spent in fees and things like that is going to be so much larger than that,” she said.

Randklev pushed back.

“At what point, Ruthie, is it going to be too much for you?” he asked. “This idea that ‘we have to pay it just because’ is insane.”

He said the board has a “fiduciary responsibility” to the district.

"And as part of that fiduciary responsibility, I think it's protecting the funds that we have,” he said. “And sending $2.5 million in ‘attendance credits,’ whatever that is, is tantamount to a shakedown by Austin.”

"This idea that ‘we have to pay it just because’ is insane."

Randklev and other Keller trustees accused Austin of holding at least $4 billion in recapture funds without sending it to any school districts. They wanted proof the money was going where it’s supposed to.

Keller ISD’s move follows a similar one by Spring Branch ISD’s school board last month. Houston Public Media reports trustees there said they were paying recapture money but the state was not forwarding all of it to Texas schools.

Meanwhile, Carroll ISD board members will likely vote in a coming meeting on a similar resolution to withhold next year’s recapture money.

"Our elected representatives in Austin have neglected to address school funding by refusing to raise the basic allotment (per student), despite a 15% inflation from 2019, which was the last time the basic allotment was raised,” board president Cameron Bryan said Monday. “School districts around the state, especially recapture districts like us, are struggling to make ends meet. Yet we blindly send a third of our property taxes to the state, unaccounted for.”

Some Carroll trustees expressed concerns the state will penalize the district if it doesn’t pay recapture money.

Trustees from Keller and Carroll ISDs hope their demands for changing the way education’s funded in Texas might occur when lawmakers meet again. That could happen in October, when Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to call another special session about school funding, primarily focused on school vouchers.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.