Life was easier in the "good ol' days," right?
For instance, local school funding was primarily funded from local property taxes. A predictable and largely locally-controlled figure resulted.
Today schools are primarily funded from the state general fund. Statewide K-12 funding finds 53 percent of general fund revenues come from the state and 33 percent are local taxes,
In this area, Dallas gains 66 percent from the state and Central 62 percent. Locally Dallas gets 25 percent from property taxes and Central gets 21 percent of its funding from property taxes. Central gets 16 percent of its funding from federal sources. Dallas gains about 8 percent from federal funds. The statewide average level of federal support amounts to 11 percent.
With so much funding coming from the state, local districts often find the level of funding to be a mystery. There was some degree of astonishment during the last month of the school year when money from the state flowed into the Dallas District office.
In fact the end of year balance grew from initial projections of $1.6 million, during the budgeting process for 2006-07, to $2.5 million on June 30, end of the fiscal year.
While it would be tempting to go on a spending spree, that hasn't been the nature of the pay-as-you-go Dallas School Board. In fact, the biggest increase so far in budgeted items has been $400,000 added to "contingency." If the unexpected happens there will be money to cover it.
Some of the money has already been spent on deferred maintenance items. The sorts of things that should have been done earlier _ sometimes several years earlier _ but the money wasn't there. Some of the money has been spent on staffing costs that may not have been fully anticipated before recent negotiations with staff concluded.
The good news is that the schools have more money than expected. Money from the state for a variety of reasons including funds released by action taken at the one-day special legislative session this spring.
In the case of Dallas some of the money is due to accurate estimating by the district and often inaccurate estimating by other districts. The state reconciles its numbers and Dallas gains.
Staff has been added. Some of the crowded classroom conditions will ease. The next school year will be the first in several years in which adequate funds should be available.
Unlike the old predictable times, these times are less predictable. Sometimes good things happen. This time, it appears, they did.