Rising local property taxes has been a hot political topic in 2017. Ironically, it is the most significant unintended consequence of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s refusal to adequately fund our public schools. School property taxes are rising because Patrick is stealing local dollars from local property taxpayers.
Here’s how that works: when local property values rise, local municipalities and counties have the option to reduce their tax rates to offset the impact of those rising values on resident tax bills. Many of these governments do just that, adopting what is called the effective tax rate, meaning their taxpayers do not experience an increase in the amount of taxes they pay to those local entities even though values went up.
School districts, however, are handicapped by complex state funding laws and do not have this option. Most school districts rely on state dollars to fund some portion of their operating budget. In the 1980’s, the state funded 68% of school budgets statewide. It funds just 38% today. When local property values rise, resulting in additional local school tax dollar collections, the state reduces its contribution to your school district by the exact same dollar amount, thereby reducing the state’s share and increasing the local taxpayers’ burden.
Your local school district receives NO NEW MONEY resulting from rising local property taxes. The additional dollars you pay on your property tax bill each year resulting from rising values are deposited into the state’s general fund, which has been ruled and described many times as an unconstitutional state property tax.
Governor Abbott and the state legislature are shirking their constitutional obligation “to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools” (LINK TO THIS: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.7.htm) and are robbing local taxpayers of their money to supplement its state budget. When we hear legislators cry for local property tax relief, as Senator Huffines did on Twitter following this summer’s special session, but vote routinely against appropriately funding your public schools, they are not only opposing property tax relief, but are in fact advocating for local property tax hikes.
There are only two possible explanations: these elected officials are either dumb or willfully dishonest.
SCOTT MILDER Founder & CEO Friends of Texas Public Schools firstname.lastname@example.org