A lively legislative session — and a special session — that featured fights over bathrooms. Legal battles over abortion, immigration policy and political maps. A devastating hurricane. 2017 was filled with nonstop news in Texas. Here are the highlights.More in this series
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Texas legislators have been wrestling with school finance for decades, most recently balancing state and local financing for public schools more than a decade ago. Since then, the state’s share of the total per student cost has dropped, and the local share has risen to cover that — and then some.
In turn, school property taxes account for more than half of the average property tax bill. Rising property taxes are a top complaint of voters — one the state’s officeholders hear clearly and hope to resolve.
The problem? That forces them to choose from a list of unpopular options: Higher state taxes, higher local property taxes or cuts to public education. It’s hard to do, as you can see from the scant results.
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Here’s a sampling of columns tracking the debates over school finance and property taxes in 2017:
- Analysis: Texas budget writers treasure that school tax you hate (Jan. 13, 2017)
In the midst of all the gloomy state budget news, this stuck out like a gold nugget in a cow patty: Rising property values in the state’s school districts translate into higher local tax revenue, cutting the state's obligation to education.
It’s a confusing time in school finance, with a maelstrom of local and state governments trying to master a byzantine system that is faltering in every way but the most important one: The courts say it's broken, but constitutionally sound.
A state that wants to grow by freeing economic engines from regulations and taxes is throttling its cities and school districts with regulations and taxes.
- Analysis: The taxes Texas school districts are afraid to cut (April 14, 2017)
A state law that's supposed to keep a leash on school tax increases might be preventing temporary tax breaks in the Texas districts with the highest tax rates. But reversing it could make it easier to raise taxes.
- Analysis: Broken school finance system spawns wild solutions (Aug. 14, 2017)
In Austin — the poster child for property tax recapture in Texas right now — the school district is telling taxpayers they’ll be sending $2.6 billion to the state over the next five years. That's inspiring some crazy ideas.
Read related Tribune coverage:
There's a simple test to tell you whether the promise of a tax cut is really a tax cut: Is there money in your hand? [Full story]
As lawmakers debated property tax reform, we asked Texans to give us their take on the state-vs.-local fight about regulating rising property tax bills. Here’s a look at the legislative debate and how some Texans feel about the proposed measures. [Full story]
It would be unconstitutional to impose a statewide property tax. Even if one was enacted, however, that wouldn’t solve the structural issues with the state’s school finance system. [Full story]