What's Wrong With The System - Texas Scorecard

Frisco ISD board members unanimously approved their new budget for next year that includes a 4-cent tax increase. Should a school district that hasn’t spent more than 38% of their funding on instruction since 2004 hike taxes? Unfortunately for Frisco taxpayers, they won’t get a chance to answer that question.

On Monday, Frisco ISD board members approved their new budget for the upcoming school year that includes a 4-cent hike in property taxes – moving their M&O tax rate from $1.00 to $1.04 for every $100 in assessed property value.

State law mandates that a Tax Ratification Election must be held to approve any tax rate increase above $1.04, but because Frisco ISD’s new rate will not exceed that threshold, taxpayers won’t get a chance to cast a vote opposing it.

Frisco ISD does deserve some credit for having a low enough tax rate to be in this position. Some districts across Texas had already set their M&O rates at $1.04 or above, even before they sought to sue the state for more money. Some even asked for the highest property rate allowed by state law ($1.17 per $100).

But if Frisco ISD’s case shows us anything, it’s how flawed our property tax system is in Texas.

As long as their tax rates do not exceed $1.04, a school board can raise taxes without taxpayer approval. All they have to do is publish a quarter-page ad in a local newspaper announcing a public meeting to discuss the proposed rate increase.

And when they do exceed $1.04, it’s not uncommon to see the elections held at some time other than the first week in November, when voter turnout levels are only a step above atrocious.

If we had a different system in place, one where voters had a chance to vote on every tax increase, then perhaps we would not see instances where a school district such as Frisco ISD can unilaterally raise taxes, despite the fact that they haven’t put more than 38% of their total funding into the classroom since 2004.

Here’s a breakdown of their instructional spending rates over the last eight years:

 

YEAR

INSTRUCTIONAL SPENDING RATE

2011

37.93%

2010

29.47%

2009

27.71%

2008

29.52%

2007

25.73%

2006

25.10%

2005

30.80%

2004

43.50%

For the 2009-1010 school year, Frisco ISD spent $12,285 per student! Only $4,658 of it made it into the classroom.

It’s ridiculous (and downright insulting) that Frisco ISD has the audacity to sue the state for more money given their financial history, let alone that they even consider raising taxes.

Don’t expect these situations to stop occurring – at least not until the legislature gets serious about fixing the problems that plague our property tax system.