Property Taxes and Education Funding
October 23, 2017Share:
TL;DR: The state of Texas is ensuring that your property taxes go up every year, which allows them to pay less for public education.
About ten years ago, the Texas legislature developed a budgetary mechanism that lets it reduce the state’s contribution to public education funding, dollar-to-dollar, as the local property tax brings in more money. To ensure that property tax revenue will keep increasing, the state establishes an appraisal threshold, using every-other-year, cherry-picked appraisals of 600 properties in the district. Using those valuations (generally from the hottest real estate sections in the district), they then direct the local appraisers to increase valuations across the district by their calculated thresholds.
Between these two provisions (reducing state contributions by the sum of the increased property tax dollars and ensuring that property taxes will rise) the state has reduced their share of the tax burden for schools from over 50% to less than 40% in the past ten years—a period sometimes referred to as the “lost decade of school funding.” And this reduction in state funding occurs automatically, with no public discussion or fanfare. During that time, the state’s actual contribution has remained essentially flat while each district’s contribution has soared—by millions of dollars.
The negative effect of that legislation on our local district is also exacerbated by increases in the costs of technology and the rising proportion of economically disadvantaged students, a still-felt effect of the 2008 financial collapse and recession. Just as your home expenses have risen, so the costs of classroom and district technology, utilities, supplies, salaries, etc. have also risen.
Our state’s over-reliance on local property tax revenue has also led the wealthier districts (like GISD) to not only take in more property tax revenue, but to share ever-increasing amounts through the “Robin Hood” tax. While the state has been reducing its share in the education of our children, we have been increasing our contributions to the poorer districts in the state.
Currently, when adjusted for inflation, we are spending about the same dollar amount per student as we did in 2001. But given all the increased costs, this really means that we are investing less in our children’s education. Does that sound like a formula for Texans’ success?
It is past time that we call the state out for its stealth underinvestment strategy. Let your local legislators know that you know how they’re shirking their responsibilities to our students. And let them know that you will be voting for legislators that promise to make the needed changes to provide for an excellent education for all our kids.