• October 25, 2014

Temple ISD seeks piece of Panda pie

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Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2014 4:30 am

TEMPLE — While Panda Energy’s billion dollar project is expected to infuse the community with new jobs and generate a bounty of funds to the city of Temple and the tax reinvestment zone, the Temple Independent School District is working to make sure it doesn’t get left out.

Under current state rules, school districts — unlike cities — don’t receive a huge benefit when a community’s tax rolls see an increase.

The state “equalizes” funding under a complex formula that has been the target of lawsuits that remain tied up in court.

This week, during a retreat attended by Temple ISD school board members, administrators presented information indicating that while the Tax Reinvestment Zone No. 1 should receive a substantial infusion of funds thanks to Panda Energy’s location of two new power plants in the city, the school district’s funding will remain the same.

In another irony, the school district is the largest contributor to the TRZ, which bolsters local industry and helps offer the kind of incentives that helped bring Panda to Temple in the first place.

At least 60 percent of the TRZ’s funding comes from Temple ISD.

“Even with a billion (dollar) increase in value, there could effectively be no benefit to Temple ISD, while the TRZ would benefit four times as much,” said Kent Boyd, assistant superintendent for finance and operations for the district.

That is based on currently available information and the Texas Education Agency’s current interpretation of the law, Boyd said.

“We aren’t losing money, but the district might not receive any money on the operations side,” he said.

“We’re a long way from resolution and are getting legal advice. This is an issue that is new and unique, and it does not impact the 2014-2015 budget.”

Basically, the issue is uncharted territory for school districts across the state, Temple ISD administrators said.

“There’s no way we can accept a situation where the school district won’t benefit,” said Susan Long, who resigned her board position but will remain serving until a successor is named.

“Temple ISD continues to study the impact of the Panda power plant on school district revenue. Panda is housed within the tax reinvestment zone and there is little to no precedent on how this impacts the local school district revenue from appraised values,” Superintendent Robin Battershell said.

“For the 2014-2015 school year, Temple ISD officials have projected no revenue impact due to the construction of Panda. I believe we’ll be setting a new legal precedent.”

Long encouraged the district to be aggressive in seeking a favorable solution.

“I don’t want to be told what the new legal precedent is, I want the district to be a part in determining it,” she said.

“I agree,” Battershell said. “We have attorneys working on this who have our best interests at heart.”

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