Before Harvey flooded much of the city, the Houston Independent School District owed almost $80 million in so-called Robin Hood money. It's considered property wealthy and has to share money with property-poor school districts.
It worried Superintendent Richard Carranza in the wake of the storm, when he roughly estimated the damage and manpower hours could cost HISD hundreds of millions of dollars.
“This is important for us, that we look at the totality of what’s going to be flowing out, in terms of resources, for HISD and that we have that very structured conversation about how do we make the district whole, or at least somewhat whole,” Carranza said.
Turns out wealthy districts like Houston can get a break on their bill after a natural disaster.
Attorney David Thompson, who counsels school districts, said that they can apply some of the money owed to the state to disaster-related expenses that insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency won't cover.
“Frankly, it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “After a disaster, local property tax dollars that citizens are paying certainly should be used first to help recovery in their own community before simply being sent to Austin to be put in general revenue.”
Thompson estimated Houston's bill could be reduced by several million dollars.
He added that the Texas Education Commissioner could also set up grant programs for districts that suffered damage from Harvey, but aren’t considered property wealthy.