Braving cold temperatures and a constant drizzle, East Texans gathered in Tyler on Saturday to learn more about property tax and school finance reform. The event, hosted by Grassroots America-We The People and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, brought TPPF experts Rafa Bejar, Kara Belew and James Quintero in for a closer look at how Texas lawmakers can keep taxes low while still providing a solid education for Texas children.
“This legislative session holds great promise for local liberty and property tax reform,” said Quintero.
Ready with the relevant data, Quintero showed how property taxes in Texas—and Tyler specifically—have grown much faster than residents’ ability to pay has (measured by inflation plus population growth).
Senate Bill 2, and its companion House Bill 2, would address that growth by limiting revenue hikes. Local taxing entities couldn’t raise taxes by more than 2.5 percent without voter approval.
“It’s important to note this isn’t a cap at all, it’s a trigger,” he said. “If they want to raise your taxes more, they can—they just need to take it to you, the voters.”
Like Quintero, Belew came ready with the data.
“Sixty two percent of Tyler public school students aren’t reading on grade level,” she said. “Tyler families should demand better.”
We know what works, she added. When a school board sets clear (and public) goals and holds school administrators accountable, the district sees results. Other districts—with much more challenging student populations—are doing much better, because they’re setting goals and keeping track of results.
“Local school board members often say they’re told to focus on football stadiums and speech ribbons, and they never hear that kids in their district aren’t reading,” she said. “That should change.”
Merit pay plans in districts such as Dallas ISD are also having demonstrable results.
Finally, Bejar presented TPPF’s Conservative Texas Budget, a benchmark for lawmakers as they craft the state budget for the next biennium.
Saturday’s event was part of TPPF’s property tax and school finance reform “Road Show,” with the goal of bringing the real issues being debated in Austin to local communities.