Rising property values and property tax bills may be pricing you out of your home, but Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and their allies in the Legislature don’t care because your local tax bills help them do a couple of things.
First, your school property taxes help them balance the state budget, the entire state budget, not just the public education portion of the budget. They could even use your school taxes to help subsidize incentives for a multi-billion-dollar corporation they are trying to lure to Texas.
And, second, your property taxes help them avoid having to raise the sales tax and other state taxes, so they can keep bragging about being fiscally “responsible.” Sure, it’s a political con game, but they are betting they can get away with it on Election Day.
Here is how Abbott and Patrick have been abusing Texas’ system of using both state and local funds to pay for education.
Not too many years ago, the state used to split the cost of education, more or less, with local property taxpayers. But that has changed. During the years that Abbott and Patrick have been in office, they have allowed the state’s share to continue to slide and the local share to increase. The disparity has reached the point that, according to the Legislative Budget Board, local property taxpayers will be paying 62 percent of the Foundation School Program, the basic school finance plan, and the state will be paying only 38 percent during the current school year.
This growing disparity is facilitated by current law, which Abbott, Patrick and their legislative allies could change but have refused to do so. Instead, they prefer to hide behind it.
The law automatically reduces the state’s share of education funding as local property tax revenue increases. And property tax revenue continues to increase, driven primarily by rising property values. Even if local school boards haven’t raised property tax rates, tax bills in many school districts are increasing anyway because of the higher property values.
The issue is further compounded by the so-called Robin Hood law that requires property-wealthy districts to share revenue with poorer districts. That law, enacted in 1993, was designed to reduce inequities in educational opportunities among districts, but it has become outdated.
The severity of the funding imbalance was highlighted last week when the Texas Education Agency, in a preliminary budget presentation, estimated the state’s share of education funding could drop more than $3.5 billion during the next two-year budget period, primarily because of those rising property values.
That doesn’t have to happen. The governor, the lieutenant governor and the Legislature could change the law. But this governor, this lieutenant governor and a majority of recent Legislatures have refused to do so, and unless new state leaders are elected on Election Day, the law is likely to remain unchanged. And local property taxpayers are going to continue to be hammered.
If the state increased its share of education funding, local property values may continue to rise, but some local school boards could offer real property tax relief by reducing tax rates and overall tax bills.
Abbott and Patrick claim they want to provide property tax “relief,” but they don’t. All they have ever offered are arbitrary restraints to limit the ability of locally elected officials to adequately meet public needs.
They pass the buck for school funding to property taxpayers and the blame for property taxes to local governments. It’s a con game that can only be ended by retiring them and their allies on Election Day.
Vote Education First!