By BRAD ROLLINS
Superintendent Patty Shafer said this morning that the Texas Education Agency has given no indication the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District should prepare to absorb part or all of the neighboring Wimberley school district if its officials continue to defy the state over the Robin Hood school finance law.
Friday is the deadline for Wimberley school officials to pay the state part of $3.6 million in tax collected from property owners in the affluent district. In August, school trustees voted to withhold the payment required under the 1993 law that sought to balance inequities between the state’s wealthiest and poorest school systems.
If it does not make the payment, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has said he will dismantle the district, either by draining off its property value until it no longer meets the threshold for wealthy schools or by merging the district with one of its less affluent neighbors, which include the San Marcos and Hays school districts.
“We cannot afford to get consolidated. That is a terrible outcome for our school district, for our county and particularly for those approximately 2,000 students,” said Rep. Patrick Rose, the Dripping Springs Democrat whose district includes Wimberley and San Marcos, told the Associated Press last week. “We have a week to resolve that.”
School districts across the state are watching the showdown but none more intently than Dr. Shafer and other leaders of districts to which Wimberley might be integrated. The San Marcos schools leader says however she has not been contacted by state education officials to lay the groundwork for a potential consolidation.
“I’ve heard all sorts of things but I have more questions than I have answers. Nobody has contacted us so I have no way of knowing if we might be where they would be consolidated or not. I know the rumors are considering us but I don’t know if the TEA is,” Shafer said.
Such a consolidation, which Scott says would happen over the summer, would radically, rapidly changed the makeup of both districts. With about 2,000 students, the Wimberley district is about three and a half times smaller than San Marcos, which enrolled 7,382 students last fall. But Wimberley’s taxable property base —- driven by designer homes and Hill Country land values — is considerably larger than San Marcos. In 2005, Wimberley had appraised property values after homestead exemptions totaling about $162.5 million compared to San Marcos’ $118.1 million.
Whoever ends up absorbing Wimberley, if it happens, will be navigating “uncharted territory,” Shafer said.
“I am not aware of this ever happening under these circumstances. Whoever does it would have to figure out how it works as they go along. No one has ever done it before,” Shafer said.
Wimberley is one of more than wealthy school districts required to share their property tax revenue with other districts under the so-called Robin Hood law enacted after the state Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to balance its funding system for schools. School board members said their district’s academic programs are suffering from the annual payout to Austin.
CORRECTION | 11:38 p.m. Feb. 12
This story originally reported the payment deadline as Tuesday, not Friday.Email | Print