HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Hays CISD faced a $7 million budget deficit because of low attendance during the 2021-22 school year.

“The funding wasn’t there, because our attendance was around 91%. And typically, it’s around 97%,” said Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright.

So far, those numbers aren’t getting any better. The district said attendance is only at 93%.

“We’re still dealing with COVID, with RSV. We’re dealing with the flu,” Wright said.

Like all other schools in Texas, the district is funded based on its average daily attendance rate and not by its enrollment.

It’s something State Rep. Diego Bernal is trying to change. He filed HB 135 for the upcoming legislature. It seeks to replace attendance-based funding with enrollment-based funding.

The district’s school board included that on its list of legislative priorities to send to the 88th Texas Legislature, as well.

“We still have to pay our teachers every single day. We have to keep the lights on. Those don’t stop if we have 93% of our students show up,” said Hays CISD School Board President Vanessa Petrea.

But Senior Analyst with Texas Taxpayers and Research Association Sheryl Pace said making this switch would cost Texans more.

“About $3 billion a year,” Pace said.

She believed there is a stronger choice to get more funding.

“It will be competing with bills, such as those that increase the basic allotment, which is the primary amount that the state gives to school districts for each student,” Pace said.

Starting Jan. 10, the Texas Legislature will have a variety of bills to consider supporting. Hays CISD hopes enrollment-based funding is one of them.

“Funding education should be a top priority for our legislative body,” Pace said.