Some school districts eye state's rainy day fund

March 9, 2011 8:19:09 PM PST
With so many districts in so much financial trouble, why won't the state use its rainy day fund to help pay for its education system? School districts across the state are facing some of the worst budget crisis in years.

While some want to dip into the state's $9 billion rainy day fund, but others -- including the governor -- say hands off.

From Houston to Fort Bend County, school districts are facing tough times and spending hours at the table crunching the numbers.

"We've got to share. I think there's gonna be a lot of pieces of the solution, not any one thing, but I think the state is going to have to be part of the solution too," HISD trustee Harvin Moore said.

Leaders within some districts believe dipping into the state's rainy day fund could be part of the solution.

"It is a rainy day, it is appropriate to use it," Moore said.

That emergency fund started in the mid-80s and has grown to more than $9 billion.

"For those who say spend all the money now, we would face 2013 potentially with no money in the bank," State Sen. Dan Patrick said.

Patrick says the education shortfall alone is slightly more than that -- about $9.7 billion.

"The dilemma we have is sales tax revenues on decline, property values that are flat, and people flocking to Texas, so it's kind of the perfect storm," he said.

Governor Rick Perry opposes dipping into the fund but has not said if he would veto any legislators' plans to use that money.

"To just throw up our hands and walk away and say oh gosh we can't make those kinds of reductions and therefore we're going to have to spend money out of our savings account is frankly not the Texas way," Perry said.

While Sen. Patrick points out most districts have their own reserves, it's an ongoing debate as to who should break open the piggy bank first.

"You can't completely empty your checking account, but the most important thing is we are willing to use part of the reserve funds that the HISD has but is the state willing to use its?" Moore said.

The district's have various deadlines for notifying teachers of layoffs and making other changes. Many of them are coming before they will know exactly what the state is going to do.