Obviously, no one is against ensuring the best possible education for our kids. The question is whether a tax rate increase is the best tool to achieve the best possible education.
Here are some thoughts on Richardson ISD’s request for a tax increase, called a Tax Ratification Election (TRE).
I have spent time with RISD staff discussing the need for and the merit of the proposal we begin voting on this week. They have been open and honest, and we should all be grateful for that.
There are two main reasons for the proposed TRE. The primary one is to raise teacher salaries; RISD has been losing its best teachers to surrounding districts who offer better pay and benefits. The secondary reason is to support rising administrative and educational costs.
The culprit in these rising costs is tax recapture (commonly called Robin Hood). Because Texas has no state income tax, education must be funded from other sources (primarily property tax). The money is available. However, because our politicians have been unwilling to make the hard decisions about school funding, Robin Hood was created by a court order.
Robin Hood is confusing. It basically requires that if home values and tax income in a school district are high, the district must send money to the state for redistribution to poorer districts. Richardson pays no tax recapture right now. If the TRE is passed, the higher tax revenue will require paying recapture in the next tax cycle.
In other words, much of the funding created by passage of the TRE will be confiscated by Robin Hood within 12 to 24 months. We will not know how much the state will take until formulas are calculated. It could be half of the new revenue—it could be less or more. The only certainty is that RISD taxpayers will be back in the same hole in two to three years, but spending much more.
Those are the facts.
As we vote on the TRE, the fundamental question is this: Will we accept higher taxes for a short-term fix that does not solve the longer-term problem? Or would we be wiser to push our state legislators to create an equitable funding formula that eliminates Robin Hood? There is at least one viable proposal from the Texas Public Policy Foundation to do so.
Texas has one of the highest property tax burdens in America, ranking in the top four to six states (depending on the source and methodology). Most of Texas’ property taxes fund education. In fact, about half of the entire state budget—approximately $100 billion—is spent on education. Throwing more money towards education is not the answer.
Our problem is not funding. It is the massive waste created by Robin Hood and the ravenous lobbyists who profit from this awkward and inefficient system.
I enthusiastically support Richardson ISD, but the rapid spiral of Texas taxation must stop. We must pressure our political leaders to find real solutions. I will vote against the TRE, and I will press the state legislature to create a new educational solution NOW! This is the only long-term fix to the problems addressed by the TRE.
This is an outside commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected]