December 13, 2016
The Texas Legislature has long relied upon rising property values — and the resulting property tax generated at the local level — to reduce the state’s own constitutional responsibility to pay for public education.
Senate Bill 290, filed this week by Sen. Kirk Watson, would end that longstanding practice and ensure that state funding for public education would not decrease as property values rise. The Legislature would be directed to set a basic allotment and guaranteed yield that would result in a level of state funding equal to the previous biennium. A broad coalition of education groups is supporting SB 290 because this issue affects all districts, regardless of size, location or property wealth.
“Taxpayers expect that public schools and their students are reaping the benefit of rising school property tax bills,” said Watson, who filed the same legislation in 2015. “But the biggest beneficiaries are really legislators because the state pays less as property values go up.”
For the upcoming 2018-19 budget, the Texas Education Agency is expecting property values to increase another 5 percent each year, which led the agency to reduce its request for the Foundation School Program by $2.09 billion. The state is anticipating another $310 million less in facilities funding because fewer districts will be eligible for the programs due to property value growth.
“Taxpayers need to know that higher tax payments from property value growth actually benefit the state’s general revenue fund and NOT school district operating budgets. Senate Bill 290 will ensure that tax dollars paid in the name of public education will stay in education and that the state will not reduce its contribution to funding education because of rising property values. It’s what taxpayers expect and what state legislators should support,” said Missy Bender of TaxparencyTexas, a grassroots effort initiated by North Texas school districts.