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January 25, 2002
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Joint School Finance Committee Examines The Tax System

The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance continued its examination of the Texas school funding system today, January 25, 2002. Today's meeting focused on how facilities are funded and a presentation on demographics and property values.

David Anderson and Joe Wisnoski from the Texas Education Agency led off the day's invited testimony be telling the members that school districts are relying more and more heavily on bonds for financing new projects, instead of relying on the state for funding. Other questions centered on how charter schools provide facilities (they usually lease space) and other specific funding issues.

Dr. Ray Perryman and Malcolm Richards closed the day's testimony with information on the changing demographics and property values faced by school districts. Perryman said that Texas' explosive population growth in the 1990s was in a large part Hispanic and that accounts for many of the issues faced by school districts today. He reported that in the next ten years, two out of three students entering school will be non-Anglo and for many reasons that population can be more expensive to educate.

Richards testified that the current "Robin Hood" plan has led to property tax increases and in turn led to lower property values and less wealth among property owners by siphoning revenue from the real estate market since owners can not always pass along the increased cost to end users. He said that as the state has reduced the percentage of the state budget allocated to education over the past few years, local districts have had to make up the difference with property taxes. For example, in 1980 total property taxes in Texas were $2.8 billion dollars. In 2000 they amounted to $13.6 billion. It follows that such a heavy reliance on property taxes means less affordable housing in Texas in the future.

Committee Co-chairs are Senator Teel Bivins and Representative Paul Sadler. Members include Senators Steve Ogden, Florence Shapiro, Eliot Shapleigh, Leticia Van de Putte, and Royce West. Also on the committee are Representatives Harold Dutton, Kent Grusendorf, Scott Hochberg, Rene Oliveria, and Todd Smith. Public members include Kent Caperton, Will Davis, Craig Foster, Lyndon Olson, Mark Stiles, and David Thompson.

The committee's next meeting is scheduled for February 7th and 8th in Austin. At that time the committee will examine alternative school funding plans.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.