AUSTIN (KXAN) — Budget writers for the state legislature proposed adding billions of dollars in state tax dollars to Texas public schools, changing years of state policy that increased the burden on local property taxpayers.
In what are known as the ‘base budget’ proposals for the House and Senate – starting points during the 140-day legislative session – state budget writers published the details Monday and Tuesday. This comes after the state’s accountant reported Texas will have money to spend do to a booming economy.
The House released their proposal the night before the state’s Tuesday inauguration of Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Abbott, Patrick, and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen pegged school finance and property tax reform as the state’s two main priorities during the 86th legislative session.
“The eyes of Texas are upon us. We have the opportunity and the obligation to get this right,” said Governor Greg Abbott Tuesday during his inaugural speech, “We can and we will better fund education in Texas.”
The developements are refreshing to school district leaders facing budget deficits, like Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees.
“We’ve basically been capped on how much money we can keep. Our expenses keep going up. As we bring in more tax revenue, they’re just taking it away,” said Cory Vessa, School Board Trustee in Round Rock ISD.
Next month RRISD Trustees face tough choices with a $14 million budget shortfall already baked into this year’s budget.
Millions more will leave the district next year under the current law. Round Rock will send $32 million dollars back to the state as part of its ‘Robin Hood’ system – known as recapture – that helps fund property-poor school districts across Texas. Next year, $60 million property tax dollars will leave the district to go elsewhere and Vessa fears budget cuts will be necessary.
“It’s teachers. It’s administrators. It’s just going to affect every facet of our school system here in Round Rock,” said Vessa.
The House proposal has broad requirements. The $7 billion more for K-12 education is set for decreasing that ‘Robin Hood’ system, requiring the state to pay more for education, taking the burden of property taxpayers, and to make the funding levels for districts more equal.
The Senate’s plan has more specifics. The $3.7 billion would be to give every public school teacher in the state a $5,000 pay raise.
Lawmakers have to make these proposals one final bill during the 140-day legislative session ahead. An intense debate about how the money is distributed is expected.