Dr. Guy Sconzo, Executive Director of Fast Growth School Coalition, submitted the following testimony to the Texas House Public Education Committee on House Bill 21 – Special Session (July 24, 2017):
Issue: Property tax relief for rapidly growing communities
Greetings, Chairman Huberty and members of the committee. My name is Dr. Guy Sconzo and I am the Executive Director of the Fast Growth School Coalition. We represent the 75 fastest growing school districts in Texas, many of which are in your House districts. These 75 districts represent 80% of the state’s student enrollment growth meaning that some fast growth districts are adding hundreds or even thousands of new students every year.
We respectfully submit this written testimony on House Bill 21, particularly as the bill relates to funding for charter facilities. In the weeks leading up to the first called special session of the 85th Texas Legislature, it became clear that property tax reform and relief were to be a major conversation…as they should be. If tax relief is still to be the focus of legislation such as House Bill 21, charter facilities should be removed from this bill.
There are currently two statewide allotment programs that were designed to provide property tax relief for school facilities. The Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) provides facilities assistance for property poor school districts. For the upcoming 2018-19 biennium, new awards for this program have been cut entirely. Additionally, the Existing Debt Allotment provides facilities debt relief for some districts and is the focus of House Bill 21.
At the high-water mark for the Existing Debt Allotment (EDA) and Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA), the state paid for 45% of school district facilities debt. That amount has now declined to less than 7% for the next biennium meaning that local taxpayers are disproportionately shouldering the burden for facilities debt while also being criticized for doing so. Meanwhile the students keep coming and fast growth schools welcome these students with open arms.
With the state’s support of facilities funding declining to an amount that has created an outcry from local taxpayers (especially those in rapidly growing communities), why would the state spend a penny on facilities funding for charter schools? Any available facilities dollars should first be spent to address the needs of our school districts and their overburdened taxpayers, not on charter schools.
A few numbers to consider:
- The ten fast growth districts with the largest amount of facilities debt currently receive zero assistance from the state for facilities and they will continue to receive no assistance under House Bill 21.
- The state has not increased the yield for the EDA or IFA programs in over 20 years.
- Two-thirds of fast growth districts receive no facilities assistance from the state, thus the inevitable increase in local facilities debt.
There is a long-term conversation to be had regarding updating the EDA and IFA allotment programs to get the state back to where it was in the year 2000. It will take some time to get there but we welcome a continued conversation on behalf of our local taxpayers and the students in our fast growth districts.
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