STATEWIDE -- School finance is priority number one for many Texas lawmakers, but some proposals include strict limits for local government budgets.
- State leaders plan to reform school finance in 2019
- Gov. Abbott renewed call for 2.5 percent local revenue cap
- Cost burden of school funding has shifted to local taxpayers since 2008
Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, renewed last month a proposal from January to cap annual increases by local taxing entities at 2.5 percent. If that cap had been in place the past five years, Austin leaders said they’d have to dismiss half the police force, 90 percent of the fire department or shut down the Parks and Recreation Department.
"We do have a property tax crisis," said Jimmy Flannigan, a member of the Austin City Council. "We also have a school finance crisis, and those are things that are both being caused by--and need to be solved by--the State of Texas."
The likely House Speaker, Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, has nodded toward making school finance reform the top priority for the Texas House come January. Erin Zwiener will be a freshman lawmaker in the 86th Legislature, a Democrat representing Hays and Blanco Counties.
"I think we have a real opportunity this session," she said. "Property taxes are at a crisis point, and everyone values their children's education. Nobody wants to compromise that."
Below is a breakdown of a San Antonio property tax bill, where almost 55 percent of the money goes to the San Antonio ISD. A fifth of the bill goes to the city, while the remaining taxing districts each take less than 10 percent.
A similar share of the tax burden is collected by Austin ISD, but Austin area leaders say the state's recapture policy--which sends money from property rich districts like Austin to property poor districts--sends an increasing amount of taxpayer money out of the area.
"I'm upset as a Republican," said Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, R-Precinct 3. "I don't think that it's fair, and I think fairness is what we are looking for."
In 2008, state and local taxes each covered about 45 percent of school funding; federal dollars covered the remaining 10 percent. Today, there's a 20-point gap between the local tax burden and state's share, where local taxes cover 55 percent of school expenses.
"The state Constitution says public education should be funded--at least equally, I would think--by the state of Texas," Daugherty said. "I think that is the reason people are upset."
Daugherty said a solution must provide relief for taxpayers without sacrificing education or public safety.