Are TRE’s - “tax radification elections” - coming to an ISD near you?

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Education, Public Schools, Taxes, Teachers, The Lege at 2:04 pm by wcnews

As we know the GOP members of the Texas Legislature have been promising all session(s) long that they will not raise taxes. But that doesn’t mean that Texans will not pay higher taxes. That’s because everything the GOP Lege has done this year, in relation to public school finance, almost guarantees a local property tax increase if possible. All the GOP members have done is shift the burden from them to the local communities. And this is not happening just with education. There are many unfunded mandates that will be force onto local communities.

As we’ve known for a while state Sen. Steve Ogden is not against taxes being raised, he just wants to make sure he can’t be blamed for them being raised. From today’s Texas Tribune, Facing State Cuts, Will Schools Raise Local Taxes?

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, is the latest lawmaker to say it: A $4 billion shortfall in state financing does not have to mean teachers lose their jobs.

At the end of the legislative session, Ogden, told his colleagues in the Senate that school districts could spend their reserve money. They could “tighten their belts in other areas,” he said. Or they could pursue what he called “a good exercise in democracy” and ask voters to raise local taxes.

Across the state, school districts are considering the last option. But will the same public that sent lawmakers to Austin in November with an overwhelming no-new-taxes imperative accept paying more locally to preserve programs and jobs?

The local portion of public education financing in Texas comes from property taxes: maintenance-and-operations rates set by school boards and, if applicable, a facilities bond interest rate. In 2006, as part of an overhaul of the state’s school finance system, the Legislature voted to reduce property tax rates by a third, setting the majority of districts’ maintenance-and-operations rates at $1 per $100 of property value, with a cap of $1.17. Any district that wants to levy a tax rate higher than $1.04 must hold a “tax ratification election.”

About 20 percent of districts have already reached the $1.17 limit, according to data from the Equity Center, a school finance lobbying and research organization.

Most districts will probably set their budgets in August, but will begin finalizing expenses as soon know the exact details of the Legislature’s new school finance plan.

While it is too soon to tell whether the reduction in state financing will result in a wave of property tax increases, there is little doubt that some districts will try to raise their levies.

“It’s not a matter of if we are going to have a TRE — it’s a matter of when,” said Joe Smith, a former superintendent who runs texasisd.com, a clearinghouse of news and information for school officials.

Here’s more on Ogden’s previous attempts to shirk responsibility for raising taxes. Gov. Perry and the GOP have worked themselves into a corner on a couple of issues so far in the special session, House defies Perry over Amazon and sales taxes.

I presume that if he did veto it, that would force him to call another special session. Which I also presume he’d rather not have to do, which is why he issued a statement (that you can see at Trail Blazers) calling on the House to not do this. It still has to survive the Senate, but given that Otto’s original bill passed both chambers easily, I think that’s doable. Combine this with the Howard-Farrar Rainy Day Fund amendment, and we can now count two positive things to come out of this session. The Trib has more.

Here’s a great post from TexasISD, with a link to the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) summary of what happened last week, A Few Victories, but Situation is Still Critical.

After a few victories last week, educators are focusing on the fact that “it” is not over. Public schools did gain some ground in a defensive battle to maintain current levels of funding and improve equity, but have not made it back to funding levels provided in the 10/11 school year on a per WADA (student) basis. Leadership is communicating that they are putting more money in public education than in 10/11. This is disingenuous considering the equivalent of 240,000 new ADA (students) will attend Texas Public School districts over the next biennium.

Reporters covering Texas Public Schools are beginning to look down the road and report on the consequences of some of the decisions and priorities that have been chosen by the legislature. TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) posted a detailed summary of the amendments added during the lengthy debate that lasted well after midnight on Thursday. The summary, House Passes Fiscal Matters Bill, is the most detailed review of the amendments to SB 1 added and passed by a vote of 83 to 62. This post will assist in determining where we are.

Further Reading:
Educators worry schools won’t recover from cuts.

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