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If Your School Property Taxes Are Too High for the Next Two Years, Thank Abbott and Patrick

Dan Patrick’s defense of state education spending is also a pretty good argument for an income tax.

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Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is making a compelling argument that the state needs an income tax. With a PowerPoint presentation at hand, Patrick opened this week by demonstrating to about two hundred people at a pre-special session conference of the Texas Public Policy Foundation that under the state’s current tax structure there is no money available for an expensive fix to the public school finance system and the high local property taxes that pay for the lion’s share of it. The state spent what it had on the current two-year budget, he said.  “That’s all there is folks,” Patrick said. “There is no more money.”

Patrick, of course, is not advocating for an income tax. He opposes a state income tax. But Patrick was using it as a specter to haunt House Speaker Joe Straus, who wants to tackle the thorny issue of public school finance while figuring out how to pay down local property taxes. “I believe there is a movement within our own party, led by the speaker, who wants to pass a personal income tax and billions and billions of dollars to increase spending,” Patrick said. “You’ve heard him say again and again and again that you have to put billions and billions of dollars into public education.” Straus on Monday stated flatly that he also opposes an income tax but favors school finance reform.

An income tax is the biggest boogeyman in Texas politics. Former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock found that out after he proposed one in 1991 to pay for public schools. Opposition was so swift among both Democrats and Republicans that Bullock pushed through a state constitutional amendment requiring voter approval to adopt an income tax. Even if Joe Straus actually wanted an income tax, the reality of it ever passing muster with state voters is almost nil.

The special legislative session opens today with both Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott advocating for a teacher pay raise that is essentially mandated by the state onto the local school districts. In his PowerPoint presentation, Patrick said there is no need for any more money in the public school system. Patrick said school districts merely need to “reprioritize” their current levels of spending. According to Patrick, teachers statewide receive just 32 percent of the $60 billion in local, state and federal revenue spent on public education every year in Texas. “That’s out of whack,” Patrick said. “Buildings don’t teach reading.”

When Patrick says there is no more money, he is correct. The state budget balanced without paying down the cost of running the schools. In fact, because of rising local property values, the funding formula for public schools allowed the state to shift more than $1 billion in costs to the local school districts.  The state share of public school finance has dropped from about 45 percent in the middle of the past decade to about 37 percent in the upcoming year. Fixing public school finance and lowering public school property taxes would require a huge infusion of state money, and that would require some sort of state tax increase. As I noted earlier this year, if your property taxes are too high, thank a legislator.

More and more, local property taxpayers carry the burden of paying for schools. Buildings don’t teach, but they do give teachers a place to teach. According to the state’s Bond Review Board, school districts presently have $72 billion in bonded tax debt that was approved by local voters, which works out to close to $16,000 per student. Paying on this debt can run into millions of dollars for school districts, and this doesn’t include expenditures for school buses, lunches, librarians, janitors, or administrators. On top of that, the Robin Hood school finance system means many school districts collect property tax locally that the state then transfers to poorer school districts. Abbott, in his own speech to the public policy foundation, said he wants to eliminate Robin Hood — a great battle cry if he’d only explain how.

When it comes to Patrick’s claim about the percentage of education money spent on teachers in the classroom, compare that to the military parlance known as a tooth-to-tail ratio. At the end of World War II, for example, the U.S. military in Europe had 39 percent of its personnel serving as combat troops (“the tooth”), while the remaining personnel covered support, logistics and administration (“the tail”). In the Kuwait Theater of Operations in 1991, the “tooth” accounted for just 30 percent.

Even if 32 percent of the total spending on education in Texas is going to the tooth – teachers in the classroom – it is not out of line with what the military spends to keep boots on the ground.

To contemplate Patrick’s contention that schools can reprioritize spending by shifting it around to create teacher pay raises, I decided to look at a school district budget. And because the Senate Education Committee is chaired by Senator Larry Taylor, a Friendswood Republican, I chose the Friendswood ISD.

The district had an average daily attendance of 5,888 students for 2016-17 and a total budget of $47.9 million. Of that, $29.8 million came from local property taxes, while $16.5 million came from the state. The state’s share of paying the bills in Friendswood already was down to 34 percent of the total last year – and the district showed it received no federal funds. Friendswood spent 83 percent of all its money on payroll, with 71 percent of that spending dedicated to instruction.

The Friendswood school trustees wanted to give their teachers a pay raise. There simply was no money to move around, or reprioritize as Patrick would describe it. Trustees last year approved a $1,500 pay raise for teachers and a 2.5 percent increase for all other employees to keep up with the cost of living. But the pay raise was going to require a local tax increase of 9 percent, so a tax rollback election was required. Local voters gave it the seal of approval. However, the state system, like a blackjack dealer, shaved money off the top for the house. The Texas Education Agency noted the increase in local tax effort and took $232,000 away from the district for the Robin Hood recapture.

In a Community Impact report, Friendswood superintendent Trish Hanks said, “We made some drastic cuts when the Legislature cut [funding] in 2011. We hired back most of the teacher spots but not the administrative and specialist spots. Our students were suffering. Our schools were suffering… It’s not just a matter of losing the money, though, because the district raised taxes more than it needed knowing part of it would go to the state. We calculated all of that for the [election]. We knew that we would probably have to pay a penny’s worth of that increase back to the state. That’s why we raised it the amount that we did.”

In short, a penny of the Friendswood tax increase contributed to that billion dollars that the Legislature did not have to give to the schools this year. The state system reprioritized the local tax increase to Dan Patrick’s advantage.

Patrick and Abbott can play all the statistical games they want, but if the real goal is to restructure public school finance and lower local property taxes, it is going to require a major infusion of money at the state level – or an admission that the state simply cannot do its fair share to fund the public schools of Texas. But all Abbott has put on the special session agenda is a proposal to study public school finance for the next two years.

So if your public school property taxes are too high, blame Patrick and Abbott for the next two years.

 

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  • WUSRPH

    From what all three of the so-called State leaders—-the real one and the two frauds—are saying there is a chance that the special session will reduce the amount of Robin Hood money the richest districts have to pay to the state. This will, of course, help keep down property taxes in the richest of the districts and do nothing for poorer districts….with only $42 million available to spend this will require some financial finagling such as Patrick’s suggestion that they do a two percent across the board cut of GR funds for the rest of the state.
    As you note, if he legislature really wants to do something about property taxes it has to find the revenues somewhere else…..Although it is the most unlikely to pass, the income tax would both provide new money and—because of the way Bullock structured his constitutional amendment—relieve property taxes at the same time. That is because Bullock provided that 75% of the revenues from an income tax would have to go to school property tax cuts. That makes adopting an income tax a “twofer” …..
    The only other alternative is the one being pushed by the right wing radicals at the Texas Public Policy Foundation which advocates expanding the base of the sales tax to cover everything taxed in at least one other state combined with a raise in the rate to they say somewhere between 9% and 11%….Since it is unlikely that the Legislature would by taking away all of the dozens of exemptions it is more likely that a higher rate be required. Some estimates are that it could go as high as 20%……BUT, it should be noted that the TPPF is not talking about getting any new revenues out of their plan but only replacing what we already have.

    • donuthin2

      For the business that I have spent most of my life, broadening sales tax to include imputs would be devastating; much worse than a state income tax. TPPF represent a truly selfish constituency and certainly not the interests of Texas.

  • donuthin2

    Maybe instead of broadening the base for sales tax, we should broaden the base for property tax to include all property rather than just real property. It should include jewelry, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, etc. I say that facetiously because I know it is not going to happen and probably inordinately difficult to administer but taxing only those who chose to invest in real property for their retirement and not tax those who invest in other types of “property”.

    • WUSRPH

      It covered all those items up till the 70s when the Legislature, both for political reasons and for the fact that taxing that stuff was very hard to administer, began trimming the list of items that qualified as real property. . I remember the time the tax assessor-collector for the Dell Valley ISD, desperate for revenues, tried to tax bank accounts…at which point an old member of the Legislature saluted him for “having the courage of a nearsighted crop duster.” About the first to be taken off the list were “stock” including stocks and bonds and “live stock”. The state also adopted several kinds of special ways to assess farms and ranches and “wildlife” preservation lands and other special groups that has either taken them off the rolls completely or drastically reduced their tax bills. Over a period of a few years we have gotten tax down so that is to basically only real estate and improvements and business inventories…and there has been strong pressure to take business inventories off too…..This narrowing of the base has been accompanied by a increase in the tax rate since you had to charge more to get the same revenues out of a smaller segment of property. In fact, both the rate could be substantially lower and your individual tax bill much smaller had the base not been so limited but there was always a “good reason” for doing so….Although I still don’t know why we passed a special constitutional amendment just to exempt Masonic Halls other than they wanted to be.

      • donuthin2

        Thanks for the background. I didn’t realize it had ever included those things. Without them being included, which admittedly would be very difficult to administer, there simply is no way to “fix” property taxes which leaves no viable option other than a state income tax. Unfortunate, but true.

        • WUSRPH

          Oh, but there is a definite option—-the Patrick/Abbott plan to slowly starve state government so that it is less and less able to provide services and has to stop doing many of the things it does now. That’s their alternative….Private schools for the worthwhile, reading and writing and arithmetic for the rest. Health care for those who can afford it…occasional charity for the rest….Law & Order….The way government was supposed to be.

  • donuthin2

    Or do as Sessions has suggested, start seizing assets of those suspected of crimes. Now that is a paradox for all the so called conservative, law abidin, constitutional right wingers. It has been reported that Federal and Stage law enforcement agencies have seized property which exceeds the value of property stolen in the US. I’ve never been a victim of seizure, but it seems terribly unfair for someone who is not convicted but just accused. I’m not sure of how guilty we are in Texas of the practice.

    • WUSRPH

      Some local DA’s use it quite often since, in most cases, the money and assets seized are dedicated to supplement their office budgets

      • SpiritofPearl

        “Partay!”

    • MiracleMom

      Read some of the stories of innocent people falsely accused whose property was seized. Years later, they never got it back. No ‘innocent until proven guilty’ with this program, apparently.

  • BCinBCS

    I apologize for taking R.G.’s post about school property tax funding OT so quickly but late Monday the Republicans threw in the towel on the AHCA and BCRA, the House and Senate versions of their respective Obamacare repeal and replace bills. This occurred when the Senate lost two more votes from Senators Mike Lee of Nevada and Jerry Moran of Kansas in addition to the original no-votes of Susan Collins of Maine and and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

    Majority Leader Mitch McTurtle has now vowed to strew Republican dead bodies by calling for a vote on the Obamacare repeal only bill that passed the Senate in 2015 but was vetoed by President Obama. If it passes, it will certainly be signed by Comrade Trump/Bannon and would result in the essential repeal Obamacare two years later. What it would also do is cause 32 million people to lose their insurance and result, at the least, in an explosion of health insurance price increases and, at the most, in the near collapse of the healthcare insurance market.

    I’m sure that no matter what happens, despite over seven years and over sixty votes to repeal Obamacare, the ultimate blame for the Republicans inability to repeal and replace it will be somehow, incredibly, placed on the Democrats.

    • WUSRPH

      Trump says his plan now is to “let Obama care die”…..but I think there is a difference between “letting” it happen naturally and standing on its neck as he will do by cutting the subsidies, etc.

      • BCinBCS

        He would have to throttle Obamacare using executive orders (EO). I’m not sure that he would be willing to take the heat and criticism of ripping away huge numbers of people’s insurance when only he is responsible. I’m sure that he will try but I think that he will back away once the howls of criticism are directed only at him. Comrade Trump/Bannon has no problem killing people by denying them health insurance when he has the Congress doing the dirty work but I suspect that he will balk once the recriminations start to flow doing it himself with EO’s.

        By the way, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government organization that runs Medicare and Medicaid, says that ACA (Obamacare) insurance companies are in relatively good shape. This is despite the sabotage that Comrade Trump/Bannon and the Republicans have done to cripple the program. There’s no telling how well the program could be doing if tweaks had been made to middle-class insurance rates and Republican opposition had not occurred.

        • WUSRPH

          You forget this is the man who brags about shooting someone in public and having his base overlook it…..He will blame any “collapse” on “defects” in the ACA—existent or not–and they will believe him. Whether that will be enough to save him at the polls in 2020 is uncertain…but it will probably work for the GOP in 2018.

          • BCinBCS
          • WUSRPH

            And some folks thought the “little Bohemian corporal” with the funny little moustache and the bad hairdo was funny….

            P.S. Prior to World War I Hitler wore a much fuller moustache….but after the war he and many other German men wore the smaller one he is famous for. Why? They trimmed their moustaches during the war because the larger, almost handle-bar moustaches made it difficult to fit their gas masks.

          • BCinBCS

            I learn something new every day.

    • BCinBCS

      Majority Leader Mitch McTurtle has now vowed to strew Republican dead
      bodies by calling for a vote on the Obamacare repeal only bill that
      passed the Senate in 2015 but was vetoed by President Obama.

      Things are moving fast today. I just read that the bill to repeal Obamacare will not pass because there are three moderate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia who oppose eliminating it when there is no replacement plan. McTurtle may still call a vote and let the bodies fall when the measure fails but I suspect that he will retreat into his shell and dream up some other diabolical way to cripple Obamacare.

      • Johannejsmith

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  • BCinBCS

    I live in a town that caters to tourism. Those that stay in our local hotels and motels pay a hotel occupancy tax (HOT) of 7%. This is a tax in addition to the normal state and local sales tax of 8.25%. The state dictates that the HOT can only be used to enhance and promote tourism. Since a large majority of visitors come here for athletic events, both as viewers and as participants, a sizable portion of the HOT is used on athletic facilities. This results in a positive feed-back loop because better facilities attract more tourists that pay more taxes that pay for more facilities.

    I mention the HOT because this is a tax that directly benefits my city yet it does not cost a local citizen anything (as long as they don’t rent a hotel room). It seems to me that something similar could be done with businesses in the state. If a tax was placed on any business that sells outside of Texas, the state could raise a significant amount of money and cost the citizens of Texas very little. Although any Texan purchasing an item from such a company would also have to pay the tax, most of the taxes raised would be from out of state individuals and therefore most of the taxes raised would be from non-Texans. It would be a source of tax revenue that would avoid hitting Texas taxpayers with yet another tax bill.

    I realize that there will be arguments about the taxes scaring businesses away from Texas because it would make them less competitive but, if I remember correctly, Texas businesses pay fewer taxes than what is normal in most other states. Bringing the tax rate of Texas businesses in line with those in other states while shifting that tax on people living out of state seems like a nice solution to our tax dilemma.

    • WUSRPH

      At various times the state business tax (and particularly the tax on insurance companies) taxed those with Texas bases less than those of out-of-state firms….but that practice has been very limited by claims that it violates the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution…..You’d have to ask the lawyers why. But rest assured, at one time or another the folks over in the Comptroller’s Office have taken a look at virtually every scheme to lay off our taxes on somebody else you or anyone else can think of—I know they did when I worked there because I worked on a few projects, including the first one to take a look at putting a sales tax on what where then category sales but would now include sales on the internet. The best anyone has been able to do so far is to apply that tax to the sales of any company which has a “nexus” or “physical presence” in the state….That’s how the State was able to make Amazon collect a sales tax after it built a distribution center in Texas.

    • just me

      What happened to the Texas Lottery supporting the education of the state?

      • WUSRPH

        The net lottery proceeds, about $1 billion per year, DO support public education. They are dedicated to funding part of the state’s share of the public schools. However, public school education is s $50 billion per year operation.

        • BCinBCS

          The simple solution: Legalize marijuana.

          • José

            It won’t solve the funding problems but at least we’ll be mellow about it.

    • WUSRPH

      I have asked a friend who used to be the state’s top tax lawyer to give us some information of the whys and why nots of your proposal.

      • BCinBCS

        I dunno…

        Any tax on a business is ultimately passed on to the consumer. If a company that produces widgets that are overwhelmingly bought out-of-state has a per widget tax, paid by everyone that buys the widget, it seems constitutional to me that it is a legal tax, despite the fact that it is paid mainly by those outside of Texas. The legislature can pass a tax on any business. The fact that this tax falls only on businesses that sell widgets mainly out-of-state also seems legal.

  • Manuel Labor

    Don’t you just hate it when the Texas Constitution gets in the way. What were the Founding Texans thinking when they said ALL Texas kids get a public education? Didn’t they know that rich kids would be more deserving Texans than poor kids? All Texans are created equal, but some are more equal than others.
    Some taxes are paid with the understanding that the money will be applied broadly, and not just for the specific benefit of the payer. Insurance premiums under the ACA are an example. (It’s a tax. Remember?)
    Change the Constitution if you want poor kids to be stuck in poor schools. The rich kids need new band uniforms! In the meantime, let’s enjoy watching Dan Patrick help deplete the ozone layer with his breath, and watch Bud Abbott “call out” those who oppose him.

  • WUSRPH

    While we are all gnashing our teeth and tearing our clothing about how terrible the property tax is, let me just remind us all that Texas, the second largest state in the country, ranks 46th among the 50 states in terms of state and local tax burden per capita. Face it folks, it ain’t all that bad here when it comes to taxes.

    • WUSRPH

      Years ago one our generally considered less distinguished governors, Preston Smith, was quoted as explaining his tax policy as being that since “all taxes are eventually consumer taxes (i.e.–they get passed onto them) so why not skip the middle man and go directly to the consumer.” That has clearly become the official policy of Texas.

    • vippy

      It is also a fact that wages are declining and our leaders are taking us to the cleaners. Why is it they can only think of increases when there are other avenues to exploit? When everything else is being lowered, income for the masses, then why not do the right thing and don’t increase taxes, especially from the masses. The rich always get a break and as we have seen during GWB’s time that giving the rich breaks does not increase jobs or income as the rich found a way to hoard their money off-shore.

      • WUSRPH

        It is a myth that wages are declining…..They have and continue to grow…..but not equally across the spectrum and not as fast as sometimes in the past. But they have been increasing…

        • vippy

          Well, I work with 130 employees and have for a long time. Before 1990 we had mostly full-time positions, and we had to fight to get someone working for us. Then in 1990 it started to change, we deleted, thru attrition, full timers and hired part-timers, who got a minimum of benefits. Then we started in 2000 to hire intermittent employees, who work 3 to 19 hours a week and now they make up most of the workforce. We used to get minimum wage increases and every time that happened the economy grew. Now I see malls closing, thru cities you see more boarded up store fronts, Reno, NV, downtown is scary, all boarded up and a load of homeless in every entrance. Austin, about the same.
          I think the media finally addressed the mall businesses, so many malls are closing. They blame it on internet orders but the fact is, jobs are less, no one really offers any kind of retirement or job training and people’s funds are shrinking. During the GWB Era we tried giving businesses tax breaks but they did not invest it, they hoarded the money overseas and now Trump does the same. Of course, his Made in the USA cannot take off immediately because factories need to be updated or rebuilt and the workforce needs training. Our organization has ca. 800,000 employees on this globe.

    • cynthia curran

      Bull, I know lots of people that pay lower taxes in Arizona. The Tax Foundation is a right wing group that always prefers property taxes but there are lots of states like Arizona that have low property taxes and low income taxes that pay less than Texas.

      • WUSRPH

        And some Texans pay less than $500 per year in property taxes.. It depends on where you live, the live and the value of your property…..Arizona, by the way, ranks 41st among the states in terms of percentage of income paid in taxes…at 8.8%

        • St. Anger

          Stats are bull, dontcha kmow.

          Better to rely on feelings and stuff you heard from Mary Beth.

          • WUSRPH

            I know…..especially when everything we don’t “feel” is “fake news”…..Most people live by myths….it is so much easier than facing reality.

  • Stop blowing money on all these fancy palaces being put up as school buildings. Patrick is right. Buildings don’t teach. A well constructed,plain metal building is just fine. The school I attended in the sixties and seventies didn’t even have AC until the last couple of years I was there and I guarantee you that the education we got was a hundred times better than what’s being dished out now. It seems there is a competition between towns and cities over who can put up the gaudiest and most lavish campus. Ridiculous! Also,waaaay too much is wasted on sports and sports facilities. There is no way building a multi-million dollar sports complex will ever pay for itself. Education is supposed to be the priority and extra curricular activities a distant second.

    • WUSRPH

      Another myth…..extra curricular activities represent no more than 3% of the spending by schools…..and buildings, etc. not much more. 7 out of every 10 dollars goes to salaries. You need to do some studying of the facts and not just rely on the myths spouted by the likes of Dan Patrick. You can see the realities at:

      http://tea.texas.gov/financialstandardreports/

    • SeeItMyWay

      I believe that if Allen, or McKinney or Post wants to build a $60M it is on them through bond package votes.

      Please don’t confuse the taxes levied by the municipalities and state with what pays for the brick and mortar. Tell me Wusrph if I am wrong.

      Facts show that the state is giving back to municipalities a smaller percentage of the taxes collected almost every session, sontge burden on the local districts grows larger. The legislature wants to blame locals for using the increased property evaluation taxes to offset Austin’s shortchanging them. They have the balls to do this because Tim Dunn and Empower Texans want public education to flop. They want vouchers; they want private schooling…instead of coming up with concrete fixes. I just don’t think anyone in Austin is smart enough to do it.

      • robert dupree

        I just wish we scrapped public education entirely. You have a kid, you pay for their education, supplies, extracurricular activities, etc. I send mine to private school and pay $11k in taxes per year just to failing Houston ISD

  • Texas Publius

    Gov Abbott should have spent 100% of this time this year making amends to House members he betrayed during the election cycle over his pre-K initiative. Instead he is doing the opposite.

    Now Gov Abbott has turned his flame thrower on House members, threatening to vote his way or else – channeling the Lt Gov’s dictatorial ways. The problem is, each House member has a different set of constituents than the Gov and Lt Gov.

    How can the Gov and Lt Gov ever have the trust of House members again, regardless of who the Speaker is? Creating mortal, personal enemies of House members is not a recipe for legislative success for a Gov or Lt Gov, regardless of whether it’s Texas or some other state.

  • Troy Bagwell 

    I am wondering if the economic incentives that the State is providing by reducing state taxes for business and by granting funding for new businesses to re-locate to Texas are now reaching a point of equilibrium with property taxes. My point is, does a business pay lower state taxes now but also higher property taxes as well meaning that this strategy is a wash? or at least approaching it?

    The state continues to move state responsibilities onto the local property tax owner and ultimately the school or municipality. When will voters realize that the state has just robbed Peter to pay Paul?

    • WUSRPH

      Those deals are usually accompanied by a decrease in the local property taxes that would also be paid. So there is a loss of revenues to both the state and local governments. See this story from the DMN for example:

      https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/03/29/texas-lawmakers-need-rethink-program-gives-property-tax-breaks-corporations

      The theory is that the increased in jobs and production will generate taxes paid by the employees and customers to offset the immediate tax loses. That is, however, more than questionable.

      • Troy Bagwell 

        But, surely that can’t be the case for all businesses. I’m not really talking about a Toyota or big corporation like that. I’m talking about all businesses subject to state business related taxes.

        • WUSRPH

          The incentives go only to a few firms…but they add up…according to the DMN story, cited above, the property tax incentives have already cost $8 billion in revenues that would otherwise gone to local governments. One of the chief complaints about these programs is that give out-of-state firms moving here an advantage over Texas-based and smaller firms.

          As to tax cuts for all businesses such as the repeated cuts in the franchise tax, the only general business tax the state collects, the usual justification is a variation of the Laffer Curve theory that says that by cutting their taxes it encourages them to hire and spend more and that improves the economy and, in turn, generates enough new taxes to cover the lost revenues….However, repeated studies do not suggest that this is what really happens.

  • SpiritofPearl

    Was there ever a state income tax? If so why was it eliminated? Sales taxes are regressive.

    • WUSRPH

      We have never had an income tax as such. The closest we have ever come in the current limited franchise tax on business in which income is a factor in determining the tax due. We adopted the sales tax in 1961 after many years of battle….and continued to battle over it every time it was raised for years thereafter…But, now it is seen as the okay tax. Our sales tax is regressive, but, not as bad as it could be since it does exempt food (not for immediate consumption) and prescriptions .

  • vippy

    What happened with the lottery? We were told if we vote for the lottery the schools will be taken care of?

    • WUSRPH

      Anyone who told you the lottery would take care of the schools, lied. It was always known that, at best, it would produce only a small portion of the money needed for public schools….You fell for one.

      • SpiritofPearl

        How much goes for charter schools? Do Texans realize that money for charter schools comes out of the same pot, that it’s not new money?

        • WUSRPH

          At this point charter schools are sucking about $1.8 billion per year out of the funds that would otherwise go to conventional public schools. They are asking for more, including funding for facilities which they do not now get. This is up more than FOUR TIMES what it was 10 years ago.

          • SpiritofPearl

            And not subject to the supervision of conventional schools . . . Betsy DeVos wants more schools like this.

          • WUSRPH

            Actually, it is not true that charter schools are not subject to supervision. They are exempted from some of the wage, contracts and other laws BUT state law does require fiscal and academic accountability from charter schools. And, the state monitors and accredits charter schools just as the state accredits school districts.

          • SpiritofPearl

            Charter school students take The Test, but the administrators have different corrective options. Most public schools compare equivalently to charters. Another scam . . .

          • SpiritofPearl

            And Carrier is still moving from Indiana . . . making America poor again.

  • John Bernard Books

    My good friends the democrat reps should take a good look around this special session as many will not be coming back after the next election.

  • Wes

    A few Texans are leaving the state, many have retired and just didn’t budget for the unreal increase in property taxes that are due every year. Taxes for my home purchased in 2015 went from $6700 a year to $8,000 in 2016 and now are at $9100 for 2017, and will be $10,200 in 2018 based on the 10% max we avoided the $10,200 for 2017. Not complaining as life is good in Texas, but income we don’t have much of and property taxes on a 25 year old home should not just go up and up because they can justify the valuation of the property. The politicians say property taxes are a local issue, but with Robin Hood implemented it is simply tax money sent wherever the state says to send.

    • WUSRPH

      I know it is not that much help, but there is a law on the books—that I helped pass back in the late 1970s—that protect senior citizens from losing their homes do to their inability to pay their property taxes. It abates any attempt to collect the taxes UNTIL the property changes hands. This does not, however, forgive the taxes….it only postpones them coming due. This could make the heirs pay the taxes or let the home go for unpaid taxes BUT at least it allows the homeowner to continue to live in their home. .

      • Wes

        Thanks, I can pay the taxes, but will not stay in Texas much longer. Don’t mind working but not going to pay rent to the county on property that legally they have more rights to then the owner.

        • WUSRPH

          Sorry to see you go…BUT you are probably not going to find it any better most other places…..Remember, Texas is 46th in the US in both terms of tax burden per capita and as of percent of state income. We tax about as low or lower than almost anyplace else.

          • WUSRPH

            Somebody asked: It’s real nice that Texas has the protections for senior citizens, but what about us young working families who are also facing rising tax bills that may be the difference in our being able to afford a home?

            My Answer: There are some protections for you too, but nothing like the two I’ve outlined here today for senior citizens (tax abatement and freeze on school taxes). The best protections you have are:

            (a) the right to protest your values (which is more often than not successful)

            (b) the 10% per year limit in the increase of the value of a home

            (c) the public notices of such things as the tax rate that would not increase the total levy and the rollback rate;

            (d) the right to petition for a rollback election to reverse a tax rate if it exceeds the rollback rate.

            (e) voting the SOBs out of office who keep raising your taxes.

            (f) voting some folks to the Legislature who would take some action to lower property taxes by:
            (1) increasing the state share of the cost of public education (which the state has been reducing every year—putting more of the load on local property taxes); or
            (2) adopting an income tax under the constitutional provision that would automatically designate two-thirds of the revenues to lowering school property taxes. (Most young families would pay little or no income tax.) or
            (3) adopting something like the Circuit Breaker I mentioned earlier.

            Incidentally, increasing these protections is one of the items up for debate in the special session. Among the proposals being discussed is changing the tax levy increase that will trigger the right to call a rollback election from an eight percent levy increase to one of five percent; and/or making an election mandatory rather than requiring petition signatures; and making the process of setting rates and values a lot easier to understand.

          • SpiritofPearl

            The taxes have been increased recently on the LOT, not the DWELLING. Bought a house here in 2013 . . . it’s valued now at twice what we paid for it less than four years ago.

          • WUSRPH

            Next time you get an appraisal notice file a challenge with the appraisal district. You can go on line to learn how to do it by going to Travis County Appraisal District. You also need to check with them to determine if you are getting the freeze on school property taxes…It is not automatic…You have to file for it. It is the total value that counts…..but, as you note, it is the land prices that have been rising faster.

          • SpiritofPearl

            Wothless waste of time and energy from what my neighbors tell me . . .

          • WUSRPH

            And I thought you knew better to rely solely on “what my neighbors tell me”…..I have not done it myself…..but thousands do each year and, as I understand it, many get relief. Contact the district…and ask them….I am sure they will tell you…..but if you live where you indicate you do, it is in part of the hottest real estate market in Austin…..and that is going to force up your values…..You can’t expect the district to ignore that.

          • SpiritofPearl

            “Relief.” How much is that? Couple of hundred bucks . . .

          • WUSRPH

            You won’t know till you try….and a couple of hundred bucks is a lot money to many people.

          • SpiritofPearl

            Our property taxes have doubled since we moved to Texas for a house half the size of the one we had in Indiana. A couple of hundred bucks isn’t worth the hassle, especially when it’s unlikely to produce results.

            It took three tries before we were about to get our driver’s licenses and even then we waited for over an hour to be served. The Texas Miracle is not occuring in state agencies . . .

          • WUSRPH

            You moved into one of the fastest growing areas in the country and bought a house in one of the hottest areas in a state that relies primary on sales and property taxes and paid the penalty.

          • SpiritofPearl

            I realize that . . .

          • AllRedPixels

            WUSRPH – what is the problem with moving property tax from Property value to Land value. The current system seems quite schizophrenic. I know there would be a tussle over rates, but at least the schools would have steady funding stream; would have to go back to voters or representatives for funding increases. I fund $/student differences through state general fund and give more autonomy to local school boards. It appears to me that ISD’s (not all) have more autonomy in their capital budget than they do in their operational budget. It is hard to explain to the voter how a fine arts venue can be built (no tax increase!) yet the ISD wants to share a nurse between elementary and middle schools.

            Also – school finance is so over the head of many voters as was demonstrated by one my school board reps when she tried to explain how school funding worked; She couldn’t explain RobinHood except to say that “our” bill for 17/18 was over $100M.

          • WUSRPH

            The problem is not the base on which the tax is figured—land by itself or land and improvements as is now the case. The problem is that we rely so heavily on ad valorem property taxes for so many things. Unless you do something about the demand for revenues, using either base would still require that taxes be levied at a rate that brings in the needed cash. We can tinker with the system—as the Legislature has been doing since the 1970s taking this and that off the tax rolls or changing the way we tax agricultural land and limiting the amount your value can increase from year to year. The State could even cap increases in the total levy (as is being proposed during the special session) or put strict limits on what local governments can spend (as is also being proposed). BUT, those are stopgaps to avoid the only real solution—-which is either expecting (and getting) a lot less services from our governments (as Dan Patrick is, in effect, advocating) or finding another and more equitable way to raise the needed funds. Everyone in Austin knows what that is—a progressive income tax…..but most are afraid to even say “the I word” as it is called. The basic problem is that we want government to do things…we just don’t want to pay for them……As the late US Sen. Russell Long once said, whenever anyone starts talking about taxes, all our officeholders hear is “Don’t tax me, Don’t tax him. Tax the man behind the tree.” The problem is we are running out of trees and people behind them

          • Mama B

            I don’t even believe that. When you factor in fees, user fees, surcharges, registrations, tolls, etc., there is no way we’re only 46. All these extra things we have to pay for are just code for more tax.
            I’ve had 2 young family members move out of state in the last year bc the cost of living has risen exponentially here. They can’t afford rising rents on their low wage jobs….which are prevalent here.
            One family moved to NC and were able to buy a home. Something they would not have been able to do here because of rising home prices and almost zero affordable housing left.
            I don’t mind paying taxes. I know a thriving society takes money to maintain it and
            I know the folks before me did it for me and I will do it for the generation behind me, but damn, the folks before me didn’t have to pay $300+/mo to get around town via tolls, have enormous property tax increases every single year and all the other increasing taxes we have to pay for. My auto registration has gone up $20 this year, too.
            Where is my tax money going? Is the TABC debacle indicative of where our money is really going? Because I’m sure paying a lot more than I used to but services have gotten worse.

          • WUSRPH

            People in all those other states pay fees and registrations, but this figure is ONLY for pure taxes….I know that property taxes are going up….but what other ‘Increasing taxes” are you having to pay? The fact is that there has been NO increase in the taxes collected by the State since 1991…and there have been several tax cuts–in taxes on business– since then. So, it is “not increasing taxes” that you are paying. What you and your family members are experiencing is the reality of the so-called Texas Miracle that the GOP proclaims so much…..We tax low at the state level—and then primarily taxes that directly affect the consumer—and force the local governments to pick up more than in other states—and we provide less services as a result. The result is that the poorer you are, the higher percentage of your income you pay in taxes…..and the richer, the less you pay. That’s the way the GOP believes it should be.

            P.S. Out of curiosity, how can you be paying $300 per month on tolls? I don’t have to travel for work, but it my toll bill was anywhere near that high I would be using the access roads to the toll roads and stay off the tolled roads. It may take a little longer, but it costs nothing…..

          • Mama B

            Perhaps you didn’t read my remark when I said ‘fees, user fees, surcharges, registrations and tolls are all code for tax’. This means these are taxes and we all know it. They just call it something else so they don’t have to publicly say they’ve raised our taxes. They raise all these other things.
            Just got my registration. Gone up $20 from last year. Same car, paid off. Tolls will be going up again in January by up to 50%.
            I do have to travel for work and am not reimbursed by my employer for tolls. I am boxed in by toll roads so travel is expensive. Sorry you think I should the access roads. I have a job to do. I think Texas should raise the gas tax so we can all travel efficiently. I’m more into spreading the cost around so we all benefit…..not just those with money.
            It’s rather glib of you to recommend I travel access roads. I pay taxes to drive roads. Not access roads.

          • WUSRPH

            First, they are not all code for tax. They differ in application and purpose….but, even if you accept your premise and use total spending from all revenue sources for the state and all local governments in Texas added TOGETHER…..Texas still comes out as a state with a lower governmental “burden” than 33 other states. We are the 17th lowest. It seems those other states have even more fees, surcharges, etc. than we do.

            PS You may pay taxes to ride on roads….but you haven’t paid a penny of tax to ride on a toll road. They are built with borrowed funds paid off SOLELY by the toll charges—which are user fees paid only by those who voluntarily choose to use the toll road. Your taxes do no give you any right to use a toll road. If you don’t want to spend $300 per month (which is the amount you claim) you don’t have too…The access roads were put there for those who do not want to pay…..The choice is entirely yours…

        • WUSRPH

          BYW, congratulations on your good fortune in life. To be able to afford a home that has a property tax bill of $10,000 per year is not what most Americans experience. I am certain you worked hard for it……

        • WUSRPH

          BYW, I hear people saying things like “pay rent to the country on property that legally they have more rights to then the owner”….but I don’t really understand what they mean. What rights don’t you have that the county has over your land?

      • SeeItMyWay

        You call that a “fix”? It is absurd.

        • WUSRPH

          No one said it was THE ANSWER to the problem of rising property taxes. Nor did anyone claim that it was a “fix” for anything. BUT, it does allow low-income/fixed income senior citizens to continue to live in their homes and not worry about being sued for unpaid (or only partially paid, as is also possible) property taxes and losing their home. That is about the best we could do under a state constitution that prohibits forgiving debts owed to the government. Of course, some potential heirs object that it will reduce the value of their inheritance when their parents pass away…But you don’t get a free ride in this life…..What’s your solution? Stop complaining and start suggesting AND working for your ideas. That’s what the rest of us do.

          • SeeItMyWay

            I didn’t get paid to come up with political solutions. I voted for, and paid the salaries of others, who were supposed to come up with solutions to problems plaguing the state. Sounds like you were one of them on the payroll. Therefore, I guess it is my prerogative to tell you that your bandaid was an sorry fix. At some point, old folks should be able to hold a free and clear title to real property.

          • WUSRPH

            Are you suggesting that after they reach some point in life us old folks should no longer have to pay for the services they receive from their local governments….That by virtue of their age we should get a free ride for the rest of our lives? As an old folk I’d sure appreciate that…BUT, as a citizen, I think it is a bad idea.
            As to the “sorry fix”….We had a problem—Low income senior citizens were losing their homes because they could not afford the property taxes. The state leadership (then and now) was unwilling to address the situation by reducing the need for those taxes, so my legislative boss worked up a bill to give them all the protection we could at the time. It may have been a band aid, as you call it, but it was a practical solution that could be passed by the Legislature. In a perfect world, we could and would have done better…but I, personally, am proud to have played even a little part in allow older Texas to stay in their homes. I still haven’t heard a better solution from you…other than an easy-out of passing the buck to your elected representatives. I’m sorry but good citizenship requires more than that.

          • SeeItMyWay

            Please spare me. I am watching this property tax stuff unfold and it stinks.

            Yes…I think that at some point in life a person should hold real property free and clear. Is that clear enough? An income tax and all the hidden fees, and sales taxes we pay would be much better than what we’ve got.

          • WUSRPH

            Then tell your elected representatives what you want them to do……They cannot represent your views if you will not tell them what they are.

          • SeeItMyWay

            Mine all know me personally, as do others outside my district. They hear what I like and don’t like, but to think that they are listening to me over groups like Empower Texans is wishful thinking. I don’t offer up quite as big a check, and money and threats by someone carrying a massive stick gets their attention.w

  • SpiritofPearl

    Don Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer:

    https://youtu.be/8ZvugebaT6Q

  • WUSRPH

    Wes, below, makes a valid point about the problem many people are having with rising property taxes as the value of their homes increase. There are a number of ways to deal with this problem……ranging from the heavy-handed approach Dan Patrick is pushing that would tighten the cap on the increase in total tax levies (but not necessarily on an individual home) to the more subtle approach used in a few states that ties the amount of property taxes you have to pay to a percentage of your income. This is called a “circuit breaker”. It normally says that the total local property tax bill can not exceed a set percentage of your income (usually six percent). When that happens, you get a rebate from the state of the amount you paid over that percentage. People have talked about bringing this concept to Texas—and I did some number calculations on it back in the 1980s—but, so far, there has been little interest at the leadership level. One problem is that it would be more difficult to administer in Texas than in other states because the states that have it also have income taxes and pay the rebates by giving the taxpayer a rebate on his income tax and we don’t have one…BUT, it anyone was seriously interested those kinds of administrative problems could be handled.

  • Asher B. Garber

    Apparently, Republicans join politics to make government incapable of solving issues. And then they justify it by saying, See how terrible government is? It can never solve any issues.

    The Toilet Czar and Governor Smells Funny are not really anti-tax crusaders. They are really bad politicians who hate society.

  • WUSRPH

    Hey folks…I apologize if it seems I’ve been running a seminar on property taxes here today and yesterday….but it is one of those subjects covered in myths that has interested me for years and was one of the subjects I worked on during my alleged service in state government.

    • donuthin2

      I appreciate your insight into the issues and hope you will continue when appropriate.

    • SpiritofPearl

      My son was a teacher in TX for 17 years, so this is important to know. He’s now in grad school to retrain because of burnout. He was an award-winning teacher. We all lose when good teachers leave the system.

    • BCinBCS

      Your information is a valuable asset to this blog. We are lucky to have someone like you with your knowledge and experience that will take the time to explain it.

  • LockhartTx

    In the end it doesn’t really matter where the money comes from. The overall “pie” is just so big and everyone wants a their share. It’s plain and simple… you have to live with in your means no matter who you are. One of the definitions of economics is trying to satisfy unlimited wants and needs with limited resources.

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  • WUSRPH

    Whenever you discuss taxes the terms “progressive” and “regressive” keep coming up…..”Regressive” is, unfortunately, the term most often used to describe Texas’ tax system In fact, according to one study, we are the third most regressive state in the US. Regressive, to remind you, means that the poorer you are the higher the percentage of your income you pay in state and local taxes with the richest paying the smallest percentage. Progressive is just the opposite. A good analysis of the regressiveness of the various states can be found at:

    https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/whopaysreport.pdf
    As you will note

  • don76550

    No, blame Straus. He has blocked meaningful tax reform

    • pwt7925

      Patrick has not offered meaningful reform