BOT President Peck Testifies Before Joint House Committees

Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees President Karen Peck testified Thursday, Sept. 29, on school finance and recapture before the joint hearing of the House Public Education and Appropriations committees. Here is a copy of her testimony.

You can watch her testimony here. (around the 8:47:15 mark)

Chairman Aycock, Chairman Otto, and Committee Members, thank
you for the opportunity to be here today.
My name is Karen Peck and I am President of the Board of Trustees of  Spring Branch ISD.  (I am here to testify on school finance and recapture)
Spring Branch ISD serves approximately 35,000 students on the west side of Houston and Harris County Texas.  While considered property wealthy, our students are 57 percent economically disadvantaged, 57 percent at risk, and one-third have limited English proficiency.
This year our annual budget includes increased tax collections of $29 million due to value growth.  However, we will keep NONE of it.  Instead, we will be writing a $66 million check to the State of Texas for recapture. This represents 22 percent of our M&O (Maintenance and Operations) tax collections, and is more than DOUBLE the amount we paid last year ($30M).  Even more frightening, this $66 Million pales in comparison to what we will owe next year – $91 million (which will be 28 percent of our M&O tax collections), and presents an $18 million deficit, even keeping all expenses flat.
When school districts start having to send 15 percent, 20 percent, and more of their tax collections to the state – those taxes actually lose meaning as local school taxes.  While recapture dollars may go to the school foundation program, in reality they allow the state to reduce the amounts it would otherwise spend on public education.   Thus, these supposedly local school tax dollars may really end up subsidizing roads, or prisons, or health care – and while the state certainly has obligations in those areas, local school taxes weren’t designed or intended to underwrite those programs. 
I support and hope for a transformational reform of the current funding system.  Realizing the barriers in place, however, we agree with Austin and Houston ISDs that many steps can be taken to improve the system. For example, take account of our local homestead exemption [now locked in by the State] in the school funding formulas (especially since it’s now locked in by the state) and please don’t charge us recapture on homestead exemption amounts that we do not collect.  The latter alone would mean $31 million dollars to Spring Branch ISD.
More solutions: Put a cap on recapture.  Give us more golden pennies, eliminate recapture on local tax dollars generated by a TRE, tie school funding to inflation, increase the equalized wealth level per student in order to recognize property value increases across the state, count ALL of students in our full day preK program, and  increase the multipliers for Bilingual education and CTE. 
Additionally – keep ALL revenue growth due to local value growth IN public education.  When the school foundation program receives additional SCHOOL TAX dollars attributable to value growth, that should not be a pass to lessen the contribution the State otherwise makes to public ed.  Keeping these dollars in public education would allow an increase to the basic allotment which would benefit ALL Texas school children. 
  Thank you.

To watch archived video of House hearings, go here.


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