Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Reason #2: State's Share Is Going Down

The Richardson ISD is asking voters to approve a tax increase. I am voting YES for many, many reasons, but there are some that, all by themselves, are enough to convince me to vote YES.

Reason #2: State's Share Is Going Down

Note that this graph does not need to show spending in absolute dollars. It does not need to show spending per student. It does not need to adjust for growing enrollment. It does not need to adjust for inflation. It does not need to pick a baseline year to draw historical contrasts. All it needs to convince me that a local tax hike is needed, is show how the burden of funding public schools is divided between the State and local property owners. It's a partnership, but this graph plainly shows that the state legislature is pushing more and more of the burden onto local property owners. When local school districts can no longer count on the State to carry its share of the burden, local property owners have no choice but to pick up the slack themselves. Unfortunately, eventually that means a tax increase.

The State funding system is perverse. The formula actually reduces State funding as property values increase. Sure, tax revenue goes up as property values go up, but the State keeps most of the extra revenue from rising property values, not your local schools. The sure way to increase local funding is with what the formula calls "increased tax effort", that is, by raising the tax rate.

It's a win-win situation for state legislators like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Rising property values mean more tax revenue, with that money collected by the local school district but flowing to the State. Austin gets the money for Dan Patrick's pet projects like private school vouchers, and the local school districts get the blame for rising taxes. State legislators love how that formula works. Why expect them to change it?

I don't like that graph above. But it is what it is. The state legislators count on the voters not figuring out what's going on. Until voters do catch on and start electing candidates who actually support public schools instead of just saying they do in their campaign ads, that graph is not going to get more balanced. We might not be able to control the legislators already in office, but we can control how we as a community respond to the negligence in Austin. Vote YES for public schools on November 6.

P.S. If you vote a straight-party ticket, you still have to search out and vote separately for the RISD tax ratification election. Don't accidentally overlook it.


MGrau said...

I think you are not recognizing that the "state's share" is really our money. The state has no money of its own, only what it takes from us. Since property taxes are required by Texas' Constitution to be spent on public education, using that money for public education is completely appropriate in my opinion. The district is now getting 9% less per student (after adjusting for inflation) than they were 10 years ago. The real issue is how they are choosing to spend it. Why weren't teacher raises and student safety the first priority in the budget instead of the last? Why wasn't the money given to athletics part of the TRE instead of being funded before academics? I'm guessing they felt that pretending teachers can't have raises unless we give the district higher taxes would be an easier sell to the voters emotionally. Why is the threat of cutting teachers the first move they say they'd make if the TRE doesn't pass? Why won't RISD commit to prioritizing academics and getting all students to grade level in writing? They're happy to say it verbally since they know they can't be held to it. It's very discouraging to see their lack of interest in education since that is the whole reason for their existence.

Mark Steger said...

Marcia, thanks for the feedback. You are correct that all government revenue is "our" money. By "state's share" I mean the share of the RISD budget funded by taxes in the State's hands vs the share funded by local property taxes collected by the RISD. Salaries constitute so much of RISD's budget that I'm not surprised if raises require a tax hike, nor that if the money isn't there that payroll would suffer, either by delayed raises or even pay cuts or layoffs. I don't agree that any of this shows the RISD has "a lack of interest in education." In fact, the grief they are taking asking for a tax hike indicates to me just the opposite. Please keep the lines of communication open.

Mark Steger said...

Reason #3 is now published.

Marcia Grau said...

I think that making the choice to enlarge the scope of the Macs beyond what was approved in the bond instead of paying off the deficit or giving teachers a bonus to improve a retention or really anything that was academically relevant was an outstandingly poor choice. They could have used the TRE to help fund expanding the MACs if they really felt the people in the district supported that choice. And the funds they used were not bond funds, they were readily available for any of the uses I cited.