Superintendents hopeful as legislative session starts

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Superintendents across Central Texas remained hopeful as the 2019 state legislative session began Tuesday.

Two of the top key issues lawmakers face are school funding and property taxes.

"You know we've got $15 billion sitting in a rainy day fund and if it's not raining somebody needs to explain that to me."

Moody Independent School District Superintendent Gary Martel said.

"I think I've mentioned it before, if we don't pay for it now we're going to pay for it later."

He expressed the dire need to adequately fund public education.

Dozens of bills were filed before the end of 2018.

One bill to watch is HB24 which would require the state to pay at least half of the cost of public education.

This year the Texas State Teachers Association said the state is expected to pay about 38% of what it takes to fund education.

That’s down from 49 percent 10 years ago.

The rest comes from increased property tax revenue.

Martel said his district gets less money from the state now than it did the previous year, but he has more students.

He also mentioned there should be a better formula for determining the cost per student.

“That's been the hardest thing, how did you come up with that number because you've got federal aid, state aid, local aid, but set a number there and then let the local districts determine how much more they want to put in property taxes."

Rising property taxes have become an ongoing complaint from residents.

No matter the size, small and larger school districts are feeling the pinch.

Marcus Nelson, Superintendent of Waco Independent School District explained had his district has prospered from a growing economy but the inner city district still needs the state to provide more.

"With property taxes, Chip and Joanna Gaines, The Silos, and all the great growth that is happening, this is the first time that our local share will exceed what we receive from the state and that's not right."

School leaders also said they don't want unfunded mandates.

Both superintendents said they regularly communicate with state representatives.

Nelson said, "I know they have to make some tough decisions and I can't say that they've always voted in a way that I specifically didn’t them to vote but I do know that they're very receptive, very open, and we've been able to come at the table of discussion and negotiation and I believe that they are advocating for all the people of McLennan County."