Randy Vivian

Randy Vivian

With the 86th Legislative session over and Gov. Greg Abbott signing passed bills into law, the biggest issue facing the citizens of Texas is what is in House Bill 3, the school finance bill. HB 3 will make significant changes to the way the state’s public schools are financed. It will update and eliminate elements of the school funding formula. This will direct more money toward educating students from low-income families. It will also give teachers and other district employees raises and slow the growth of property taxes collected by school districts.

HB 3 would lower property tax rates for schools by an average of 8 cents per $100 of valuation in 2020 and 13 cents in 2021. Beginning in 2021, with the passing of Senate Bill 2, school districts will not be able to collect more than 3.5 percent without going to voters for approval. This rate cap is not limited to school districts but also includes many cities, counties and other taxing units. The growth rate excludes taxes levied on new construction and can be averaged over three years, allowing taxing units to exceed the 3.5 percent threshold in some of cases.

State leaders have said the new law will slow the pace at which property tax bills grow and will update a growth rate set during a period of high inflation. By contrast, Moody’s Investors Service, a credit-rating agency, issued a May analysis that said the law would lead to “minimal” homeowner savings and “hurt local governments substantially.”

HB 3 also would spend about $4.5 billion during the next two years on educational reforms and $2 billion on increasing teacher salaries.

Each district will receive $6,160 in base per-student funding, up from $5,140. The state’s share of education funding would grow from 38 percent to 45 percent.

Teachers with more than five years of experience would be given an additional $4,000 as part of their “compensation packages.” This could include not just pay but health care, for example.

Teachers would have opportunities to earn $5,000 or $6,000 more. School librarians, counselors and nurses also would be eligible for the raises. Top-performing teachers could earn even more by teaching at rural or “high-needs” campuses.

Senate and House leaders also have agreed on Senate Bill 12, which would give retired teachers a one-time additional payment of up to $2,000 and shore up the pension system for retired teachers so that in the future, the state has the possibility of giving retirees a permanent increase to their monthly pension checks.

As you can see, public education was the overriding issue of the 86th Legislative Session. The passed legislation is not perfect, but it is a start to correct years of passing the buck.

Randy Vivian, IOM, is the President/CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of Business. He can be contacted at 361-573-5277 or randyvivian@victoriachamber.org.

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