Texas Education

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Property tax cap leaves schools reeling

Posted by Texas Education on August 16, 2008

This from the Bond Buyer, the daily newspaper of public finance. This article is hard to read. It cuts to the core of what everyone has been saying for a long time now. It really gets to the meat of the issue of school finance. I have to admit, when searching out data, to post and to learn and gain powerful information, I got this from our own Humble ISD website. I don’t check it that often, but today I did and read up on this article from the Bond Buyer. See for yourself:

Two years ago, Texas lawmakers passed the largest property-tax relief package in the state’s history. This year, Texas school districts are the ones begging for relief as operating costs soar but revenues remain capped under the new funding formula.

Five months before the next legislative session, coalitions are forming, with homeowners and landowners challenging the state’s businesses to carry more of the tax load for the struggling schools. At the same time businesses are complaining about tax bills that have risen 500% for some.

The article goes on to explain some of the devastation we are up against.

Complicating matters further are rising home foreclosures, the prospect of weak growth in property tax bases, a constitutional prohibition against a state property tax, lack of a state income tax that could simplify the formula, and public confusion about how school financing works, officials say. Thus, Texas is left to equalize per-pupil expenditures across 1,031 school districts that range from third-world poor to astronomically wealthy. And the districts lie in 121 tax appraisal districts led by elected tax assessor-collectors whose assessments face annual challenges.

This is really good:

“If Texas financed roads the way it finances schools, you wouldn’t have a road in front of your house,” said former state legislator and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ray Hutchison, partner and bond counsel at Vinson & Elkins LLP. In 2006, Vinson & Elkins led a coalition of 18 law firms seeking to mitigate the impact of a new business tax law on their partnerships.

What supers had to say at the summit:

At an education finance summit in Austin last week, school superintendents expressed alarm over faltering funding that’s forcing some to dip into their reserves in a form of deficit spending.

“The most compelling statement from this summit was: ‘We need help!’ ” consultant Joe Smith, a former Hudson Independent School District superintendent, wrote on his Web site TexasISD.com. “The financial situation of our schools is worse than you think.” “When a superintendent makes the statement, ‘We need help,’ he is saying that he sees something he cannot handle alone,” Smith wrote. “He also understands before making the statement that some may conclude that the superintendent is the problem. This may account for the silence on the subject.”

Indeed, school administrators say they must bear the wrath of taxpayers when taxes rise or when school services decline, even though they have no role in appraising property. This same constituency must approve bond issues for burgeoning schools, even though approval might mean higher taxes. In a pinch, districts must ask voters to, essentially, surrender the tax relief they received under HB 1 in 2006.

And of course it goes on and on and on…

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