Lewisville ISD and other Texas districts collaborated on a letter to the Texas legislative Conference Committee deliberating House Bill 3.
The letter addresses the Senate’s proposal to calculate school funding using property values from the current year, rather than the existing practice of using prior year values. This collaboration is an extension of the work that Texas districts have put forth in order to provide information and input to legislators regarding school finance reform.
Trustees and administrators have worked with peer districts, the business community, voters and legislators to maintain an inclusive and productive conversation surrounding public education funding.
District officials said the House version of HB 3, dubbed “The Texas Plan for Transformational School Finance Reform,” was a big step in the right direction. However, districts across Texas are saying that the Senate’s proposal to use current-year values is not at all transformational and, in fact, would be devastating to school districts. The letter states:
“This change is not simply resetting a fiscal calendar. The reality is it becomes another mechanism for the state to collect local revenue. Shifting from prior-year to current-year values would substantially diminish, or in many cases, virtually eliminate any benefit that our school districts would otherwise receive from positive changes in the new formulas. In most cases it would cause significantly more harm than the current funding system. It is not a one-year adjustment. Moving to current-year values would cause local property tax growth to benefit the state instead of the local school district.”
The letter goes on to say that, ultimately, using current-year values creates an additional Robin Hood system that affects even more districts than those currently subject to recapture. Any school district that experiences property value growth will now be subject to another system of recapture that benefits the state’s budget. Additionally, using current-year values makes budgeting at both the district and state levels much more imprecise. Districts will be preparing budgets and spending funds before the State Comptroller’s Office has reviewed, audited and certified values to both school districts and the Texas Education Agency. Certified values are essential for accurately calculating a school district’s revenue.
The districts concluded their joint letter by reminding conferees of their common goal. “The goal of this session has been to solve many of the issues plaguing our school finance system and not create new burdens,” the letter stated. “Please ensure that the final version of HB 3 retains prior-year values.”
Signees of the letter to the Conference Committee include 58 school districts and four organizations.