Would you be willing to tax yourself for it?
Texas school districts could create special taxing districts to fund more security under a proposal unveiled Tuesday by three Houston-area lawmakers.
The Texas School District Security Act would allow school boards to hold elections on whether sales or property taxes should be raised to fund more security at public schools.
“I believe this proposal is a Texas solution that will save lives without sacrificing our freedoms,” said state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who, with Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble, is developing the measure.
The three say they still are drafting the bill, but they outlined a few details at a news conference.
Sens. Williams and Whitmire submitted this op-ed that ran in Sunday’s Chron that gave details of the proposal:
Modeled after current law, which allows municipalities to vote to adopt crime control districts, the legislation would do the following:
Allow individual school districts to vote on dedicated funding for enhanced school security measures.
Allow for a dedicated sales tax (if available under the state cap), or a dedicated property tax specifically for enhanced security based on local school district voters. The revenue generated from a local option School District Security Fund would be separate from all other district funding.
Provide transparency and accountability by requiring school districts to hold public hearings on what is to be included in the Texas School District Security Act. Costs will be spelled out and voters will know the estimated amount of the dedicated property or sales tax to cover those costs before holding an election on the issue. The proposal would include a tax cap.
Require a review and renewal election of the Texas School District Security Act every five years.
A repeal petition would allow a community to abolish the Texas School District Security Act before the next renewal election.
The elected and accountable local school board also would serve as the board of the Texas School District Security Act.
On the one hand, if this is what a community wants to do, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to do it. I can’t imagine voting for such a thing, but I don’t particularly care if some other school district wants to tax itself for this purpose. I think it’s a dumb idea, but I don’t care to stand in their way of adopting it. On the other hand, there may be legal issues with the idea.
If voters approve special taxing districts to fund more school security in Texas, smaller, property-poor districts could wind up relying more on cheaper webcams and less on police officers.
According to the Equity Center, a group that represents underfunded school districts in Texas, the disparity in school funding – the subject of a lawsuit in Austin – again could play out when it comes to capturing more funds for school security by raising local sales or property taxes.
While three Houston-area lawmakers hammer out the details for such a funding option, the Equity Center took a look at how much security a one-cent property tax hike, hypothetically, could raise for a district.
The results were not surprising. Based on the Equity Center’s analysis of 2013 property tax values, Houston ISD could raise $9.5 million; Fort Bend ISD, about $2.35 million; and San Antonio ISD, $1.17 million.
Not too many police officers can be had for that.
“The wealthier will be able to afford better security,” said Ray Freeman, executive deputy director of the Equity Center.
Raise your hand if any of this surprises you. Perhaps the wealthier districts or schools could get around the inequity issue by raising the money via bake sales and whatnot. But really, if this is something worth having, then it’s something everyone should be able to have, and the way to provide that is for the state to do so. But is this something worth having?
Even wealthier districts may have a tough time selling a tax hike to voters already weary of hearing about half-cent or penny tax hikes every time a new need arises.
“It may be a separate taxing district, but it’s money that comes out of the same (voters’) pocket,” said Clay Robison, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association.
Robison likes that lawmakers are looking at something other than arming teachers. The bottom line for his group, however, is the belief that the state is “not paying its fair share” for education. “The state is still passing much of the cost to the local districts,” he said.
In addition to the TSTA, the usual suspects among the right-wing policy enforcers oppose the plan on the grounds that it allows for the possibility of one of them being taxed for something. That may make passing this bill, whenever it gets filed, more of a challenge. But seriously, surely there are better things to spend our money on, aren’t there?