The Texas House today is set to vote on a bill that would allow tax-hiking schools districts to escape future accountability from voters. Predictably, the entire public education lobby has lined up to support the measure.
Currently, voter-approval is required for any district seeking to raise property taxes above the state defined “rollback” rate. The new proposal (HB 486), authored by liberal Republican State Rep. Gary VanDeaver of Clarksville and liberal Democrat Donna Howard of Austin, would give “certain” districts the ability to avoid the current limit.
Which districts, you ask? Any district that’s already asked voters to raise property taxes since 2006. This fact is left out of the bill’s subject line, but is plainly stated in its analysis published online.
The stealthy measure is crafted with clever language that leaves the current limit in place, but provides an escape route for tax-hiking districts. It accomplishes this by creating a less restrictive standard that very few districts would ever exceed, ensuring they’re unaccountable to future taxpayers.
The new “limit” is egregious. It would amount to the maximum property tax rate a district has levied since 2007, which would now include all outstanding bond debt.
Perhaps the bill’s proponents are the most telling. Those who testified in support include representatives from the Texas Association of School Boards, Fast Growth Schools Coalition, Texas Association of School Administrators, and several large school districts.
Make no mistake, if this bill became law, taxpayers in many school districts across the state will have even less ability to fight back against increasing property tax burdens.
Speaker Straus’ loyal committee members voted for this bill 9-0 including Reps. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), Jim Murphy (R-Houston), Andrew Murr (R-Junction), Hugh Shine (R-Temple), Drew Springer (R-Muenster), and Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton). Perhaps no other bill this session will better demonstrate for taxpayers which lawmakers side with the public education lobby over their constituents.
We’ll post the voting breakdown on HB 486 as soon as it’s available later today.
UPDATE: Likely sensing an impending loss on the vote, a point of order was sustained on the bill on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017. We’ll keep you updated on it’s status as it returns to committee.