State tax cut proposals won’t save enough to cover damage to our schools

Defender of Victoria

For too long, state lawmakers have taken snipes from public schools. From the 1970s to the 2010s and beyond, funding formulas were revised, lawsuits were filed, and temporary cuts made permanent.

Now lawmakers are asking you to do their job. They are recruiting voters, already tired of taxes and inflation, to be frontline soldiers in their war on education.

Two constitutional amendments would reduce school property taxes for the elderly and disabled as well as increasing the family exemption for school property taxes.

The overall effect is that taxes collected by local school districts, such as the Victoria Independent School District, would be reduced. In theory, the state would make up for this shortfall.

It is essential. Sounds good at first sight. Until you read it.

Proposal 1 would essentially reduce taxes for the disabled and the elderly to match the reduced levels already enjoyed by others. Seems fair to me. But it opens the door to further tax cuts.

And Proposal 2 would increase the homestead exemption for local school taxes from $25,000 to $40,000. Sounds like a great idea in a time of high inflation and fuel prices that shoot up like an uncapped spurt. But in reality, it will save the average homeowner $175 per year. That’s less than $15 a month, on average — about four gallons of that gushing gasoline. Four gallons.

In the meantime, school districts, like VISD, will withdraw $175 from each household in the district, until the state makes up the difference, if it makes up the difference.

Lawmakers are selling this shoddy bill at a time when the economy looks grim and some voters might like to hold on to scarce dollars.

But the tax system is just another round of bombs against an already beleaguered system. And the state has a history of failing to meet the costs of education, as a dozen lawsuits filed by school districts from the previous century would show. These proposals will not be better. Proposition 1 could generate a bill of more than $700 million between 2024 and 2026 and Proposition 2 would represent $1.6 billion in the state budget from 2023 to 2026, according to some government figures.

Lawmakers have concocted a plan to use federal COVID stimulus money to cover part of the bill, but they technically aren’t allowed to do so and are suing the feds to gain that ability. If the state loses, so do the school districts.

So on May 7, this Saturday, don’t sign up for a war that will only make our kids the losers. No more than a few gallons of gas a month, or the chance that you save our elders even less than that. It’s just not worth it.

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