By Cary Cheshire|April 1, 2019
Despite making grandiose promises to provide real tax relief and meaningful reform, lawmakers plan to vote on a proposal Wednesday that will permit property tax burdens to continue swelling after a momentary two-year reprieve.
The proposal, House Bill 3 by State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood), increases public education spending by $9 billion, only $2.7 of which is tied to reducing school districts’ maintenance and operations rate, thereby reducing the amount of recapture (known informally as Robin Hood) paid by school districts.
But with the numbers officially tabulated, it’s becoming increasingly clear that when State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth) said last month the tax relief would “not [be] substantial on the whole,” he was right!
It turns out that the “Texas Plan,” as school finance reform legislation has been billed, will continue to allow taxes and Robin Hood payments to climb.
(Side note: After seeing the “Texas Solution” amnesty plan and the “Texas Way” Obamacare expansion proposal over the past few years, taxpayers should be immediately wary of any big-ticket idea being sold with the state’s name haphazardly affixed to it.)
Take for example Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. If you’re a GCISD taxpayer and HB 3 passes as currently written, your M&O rate will be sliced from $1.04 to $1.01 per $100 valuation—roughly a 3 percent reduction.
Likewise, the amount of recapture (your property tax dollars that will be spent educating children in a different school district) paid by GCISD will decrease from the roughly $54.5 million in 2019 to roughly $50 million in 2020.
All of these things sound good on the surface, but, in reality, it’s worse for both taxpayers and the school. Here are two things our hypothetical Grapevine-Colleyville ISD taxpayer needs to consider:
- How much will my appraisal increase by between now and then?
- What will happen to my ISD’s recapture in 2020?
If the answer to the first question is anything substantial, you’ll still be paying a higher tax bill than you were before.
And circling back to the school district itself, under the proposed plan they’ll be on the hook for $60 million in 2021—$6 million more than they’re paying right now!
So how are lawmakers claiming that this reduces Robin Hood? Because without HB 3, recapture payments would be even higher. In the case of GCISD, 2021’s recapture payment will be $73.6 million without the changes in HB 3.
And that’s where lawmakers are getting their talking point, misleading constituents about reducing Robin Hood—by reducing it from what it would have been, rather than what it is now.
Our own Ross Kecseg began ringing the warning bell on such an arrangement a month ago in early March. Here’s what he wrote then:
“Taxpayers currently penalized by the Robin Hood tax would still see roughly the same amount in total recaptured from their district over the next two years, when compared to the combined amount in 2018-19.
HB 3 would not significantly reduce the state’s reliance on recapture, and certainly not by 38 percent. Preventing an increase is not synonymous with a reduction. While preventing Robin Hood from getting worse is admittedly better than doing nothing, taxpayers currently being punished by the system may not even notice.”
That rings even more true following the release of these numbers.
House Bill 3 was sold as a historic and momentous accomplishment the Texas Legislature would inevitably deliver on for Texas taxpayers. In its current format, the bill is neither, and lawmakers have done little more than blow smoke when it comes to addressing relief for Texans who have suffered too long at the hands of out-of-control taxes and growth in government.
Taxpayers sent lawmakers to Austin with a clear message: Repeal Robin Hood. Unfortunately, it seems House members are ready to ratify it instead.