Approximately two years ago the voters gave the administration and school trustees approval to pursue Instruction Facilities Allotment monies to build two new elementary schools.

The two schools that will be built are San Pedro and Lotspiech elementary schools. When the referendum was placed before the voters, the residents of Robstown voted approximately 87 percent in favor of the two schools and 13 percent against building the new schools. Therefore, without a doubt the community wants new facilities to replace the ones in existence.

Most of the existing buildings are about 50 years old. Once the new schools are completed, the community and students will be proud of the three new schools, which are Seale Junior High School, San Pedro and Lotspiech. Robstown could have all new campuses except for the high school. We will wait until the board decides on the reconfiguration of grades and campuses.

The configuration of grades and campuses was presented to the board recently by the administration. If the new configuration is approved, the district can have three new campuses. The citizens of Robstown can then decide on a new high school at a future day. If the voters decide on a new high school, the building process for the district would be complete and the district is set for the next 50 years.

What is the IFA? The Texas Legislature approved the Instructional Facilities Allotment to assist property poor districts like Robstown to build new facilities. Without IFA, property poor school districts could not raise enough revenue via taxes to build campuses for students.

Robstown currently ranks 11th from the top as one of the poorest in taxable property values. There are 1,040 school districts in Texas. The amount of assistance depends on two factors: one is student enrollment and the second is taxable property wealth.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, 88 percent of school districts in Texas are property poor, while approximately 12 percent are property rich and must return taxable revenue to the state. The wealth returned to the state is then reapportioned to districts to equalize student allotments and building allotments.

The Texas Constitution provides in Article 7, that the state must provide for the general diffusion of knowledge for all students in addition to financial equity for all students. Many Texans know this law as the Robin Hood law. The voters passed the bond election and, two weeks ago, the Robstown ISD was granted these monies by the Texas Education Agency. How are the school bonds paid?

The positive of IFA is that voters will pay 22 percent of the bond total, which was $15.5 million, and the state guarantees payment of 78 percent, or $12.5 million, for the life of the bonds. Simply speaking the students will get two new campuses with local residents paying the difference of between $15.5 million and $12.5 million of the cost.

This is a tremendous advantage to a district like Robstown. You have to ask yourself, can we afford not to take advantage of these state programs? My answer is to use the state programs while they are available to ensure quality facilities for the future students. Frankly, can you afford to say no to these grants?

This 2008-09 school year the proposed school district tax rate will not increase for the residents of Robstown. Actually, a taxpayer of a $40,000 dollar home will pay approximately $9.50 less on the Maintenance and Operation tax rate and the Interest and Sinking tax rate for the two new campuses will be absorbed by the school district's I&S fund balance.

The proposed tax rate for this year will remain the same as last year at $1.25 per $100 valuation for M&O and I&S taxes.