Archive for June, 2017


State requirements for published tax notices force public school boards to make misleading pronouncements about available revenue. What’s left out of those notices is the state’s continuing “tax” on our local taxes!

Last week, when adopting our tax rate for 2017-18, the state’s required language for that adoption pronounces that our 2017-18 effective tax rate is effectively an 8.83 percent increase over the previous year.

But here are the facts:

  • The 8.83 percent referred to in the required language represents the growth of our local tax base, not a change in the actual tax rate.
  • Our actual tax rate is exactly the same as it was last year. In fact, that tax rate has not increased over the past decade. Thus, if a residence or business does not increase in value/appraisal, the same amount will be assessed this year as last.
  • Here’s the main point: As the local tax base grows, the state lowers the amount of school funding it provides. Required tax notices omit that extremely important fact! 
  • Pearland ISD will receive an estimated $3 million less in state funding this year as compared to last year.
  • Thus portraying our district as wallowing in 8 percent more revenue is highly misleading. That tax notice language comes from the same legislature using the increase in our local revenue to pay THEIR school funding bills!
  • Essentially, the state is taxing our local taxes!

This is less like Robin Hood and more like the Sheriff of Nottingham: Taxing  the locals to build the king’s coffers!

What is the net effect on these developments for Pearland ISD?

  • We predict a 2 percent increase in our expenditures for 2017-18. This is only possible because we get to “keep” about 5/8 of the revenue generated by the growth in our tax base. (The rest is offset by the drop in state revenue.)
  • We will also continue to earn revenue credit for increases in student enrollment.  We predict we’ll gain 300 to 400 students this coming year.
  • About 60 percent of our employees are enrolled in the TRS Health Care plan.  Premium spikes for those who have their families on that plan are greater than our forecasted 2 percent pay raise for 2017-18.
  • That 2 percent raise to employees will require us to dip into our carefully guarded savings for about half of it. Obviously, it is not wise to dip into savings for recurring costs over the long haul. This must be a temporary fix.
  • With yearly enrollment growth we need additional personnel. This is only partially compensated by the state revenue owed for such students.
  • Even though we just passed (November 2016) a $220 million bond election, the tax rate for 2017-18 will NOT be raised.  However, 2 years from now we do expect an increase geared toward  meeting those debt payments.
  • Meanwhile, in May of this year Texas Smart Schools again pronounces us a 5 Star District for financial efficiency and student performance.
  • A special session is now slated for July in which the legislature will consider an unfunded teacher raise mandate – and a cap on school property taxes.  Thus, the state appears poised to increase our expenses while hampering our ability to pay for their mandates.

Blood out of a turnip. Bricks without straw.

Will Rogers said, “Be grateful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

Well, we’re getting all the regulatory government we can handle. But the money to pay for it is flowing in the wrong direction!



Perhaps the best and most recent example of Texas legislature buck-passing is the newly approved bill forcing school districts to outfit new buses with seat belts. In 2007, they passed a similar law but with the provision that districts must comply only if the legislature allocated money for that mandate. Now in 2017 the legislature has shifted that expense to school districts.  Local school boards must either agree to the unfunded mandate or hold a meeting to declare they don’t have the money.   Here in Pearland ISD, our Transportation Department has calculated  an additional $8,000 cost for each new bus purchase. Furthermore, retrofitting our existing buses (once parents realize that some have them and some don’t) will cost approximately $3 million.  Meanwhile the state’s school funding formula  “robs” approximately 2.9 million dollars of our local property taxes to pay for the state’s current school funding scheme.

During the 2017 legislative session, there are heroes and villains. After the Supreme Court in 2016 ruled Texas School funding as barely constitutional and in need of significant reform, the House made an honest attempt at reform in HB 21.  This was especially critical for Pearland ISD which receives approximately $1,000 less per student than the average school district.  We were most hopeful this bill would pass.

However, the Senate said no. Instead they insisted on giving government money to private schools and on lowering the property taxes necessary to comply with the public school mandates they passed! So the Senate killed the House bill as the legislative session ended last week.

The Senate’s own funding scheme robs local property wealth increases to help pay for the state’s share of education spending. This leaves many districts no other choice but to raise tax rates or cut services.  Yet these same Senators portray themselves as secular saints dedicated to lowering YOUR property tax bill – and to improving your child’s education!

Some may argue that over-regulated and under-performing public schools are  doomed to failure. This can become a self fulfilling prophecy. So Senators claim public education is rescued by handing out government money to private and Charter schools.  And in order to assure private schools that the government won’t interfere, they’ve promised NO accountability for educational results in those schools.  Meanwhile, the legislature just passed a new A-F accountability system to measure student achievement – but ONLY for public schools!  Remember these are the same Senators who want to expand Charter Schools despite a dubious record for student achievement gains in most of those schools.

The state continues to pass unfunded mandates inevitably leading to the public schools collapsing under their weight.  Private schools are then hailed as the only remaining answer.

But does anyone really believe that the state and federal governments will not then sink their talons into private schools, curtailing their religious and economic freedom?  Where government money flows, regulation soon follows. Having served as the principal of a private school many years ago, I remain leery about private schools depending on the government’s “favor.”

Here in Pearland ISD, we’ve continuously received a Five-Star Rating from the state for financial efficiency and student performance. Our top students go to the best universities in America. Ninety of our 2017 graduates just left high school with an Associate Degree (i.e. 2 years of college completed!) Hundreds more have significant AP college credit, dual college credit, and/or certificates in high paying career fields. The list of student achievements goes on and on.

So when the state refuses to do its part and instead adds new regulations to our public schools, they are Pharoah telling us to make bricks without straw. Our teachers are underpaid. Our facilities are aging and in need of expansion to accommodate the enrollment growth spurred by our educational successes.

Our  local citizens are doing more than their share. For example, in the absence of state help, they recently agreed to more bond debt in order to meet  facilities needs.

Meanwhile, the Texas Senate adds mandates and subtracts funding.