In June, House Speaker Joe Straus ordered the committees to study two key provisions of the state’s school finance system ahead of the 2017 legislative session, including the state’s “use of local property taxes to fund public education and its effects on educational quality and on Texas taxpayers.” The interim assignment came weeks after the Texas Supreme Court upheld the complex methodology as constitutional while also deeming it “byzantine” and urging state lawmakers to make improvements.
Straus asked the committees to focus especially on “ways to reverse the increasing reliance” on payments that wealthier Texas school districts send to the state each year under its Robin Hood plan to help buoy the state’s poorer school districts. The number of schools required to make “recapture” payments has ballooned as property values have skyrocketed across the state. Recapture payments — expected to total more than $2 billion in 2017 — have made up an increasing share of what the state spends on public education and contributed to a trend of local communities footing a larger share of the public education tab than the state.
The state hasn’t just benefited from recapture, though, but property value increases in general, Aycock noted.
As property values have spiked in many school districts, allowing them to raise more tax revenue locally, the state doesn’t have to send them as much money. Last year was the only time in recent memory that state lawmakers passed along that “savings” to public schools, Aycock said, pegging it at about $1.8 billion.
“Every time a new building is built and the tax appraisal goes up, it saves the state money,” he said. “So instead of that money going to schools, it actually goes to a savings to the state that they spend on other things.”
What those other things are exactly is nearly impossible to say, according to school finance experts, but it’s safe to assume that other state services — even non-education-related ones — have benefited.
Read more…(The Texas Tribune)