How the Texas 86th Legislative Session Affected Texans

  • A new 3.5% property tax cap, triggered multiple county elections.
  • Most teachers only got a $500-$1,500 raise.
  • Rural communities are struggling to survive.

While the 86th Legislative session helped thousands of people in Texas, some of the bills also hindered smaller rural communities, and in turn, hurt Texans. Let me start by talking about  Senate Bill 2, and House Bill 3 (HB 3,  Relating to public school finance and public education; creating a criminal offense; authorizing the imposition of a fee. SB2, Relating to ad valorem taxation; authorizing fees.).

The Texas Legislature is the state legislature of the US state of Texas. It is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The state legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin. It is a powerful arm of the Texas government not only because of its power of the purse to control and direct the activities of state government and the strong constitutional connections between it and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, but also due to Texas’s plural executive.

The authors of these bills, and House Representatives, told the public that this would benefit all school districts and give teachers a $4,000 yearly raise. They said SB2 would stop counties from raising property taxes above 3.5 %, but would not lower taxes. The result only hindered smaller rural communities, including some school districts only receiving somewhere in the neighborhood of a $500 yearly raise for teachers.

Let’s break this down:

  • 1st-year teachers in larger cities received roughly an average of $900-$1100 yearly raises.
  • 1st-year teachers in smaller rural areas received roughly $425-$625 yearly raises.
  • 2nd-4th-year teachers in larger cities averaged $1200-1900  yearly raises.
  • 2nd-4th-year teachers in small rural communities averaged $700-$900  yearly raises.
  • 5th-9th-year teachers in large cities averaged $2500-3200 yearly raises.
  • 5th-9th-year teachers in small rural communities averaged $1200-$1800  yearly raises.
  • 10th year and above teachers in larger cities averaged $4000-$6000  yearly raises.
  • 10th year and above teachers in smaller rural communities averaged $3750-$4300  yearly raises.

Most of these school districts had to use other funding just to add to the amount received from the state, so they could give teachers the raises, while the state said teachers would receive $4,000 raises for teachers. Only a small amount of teachers actually received an amount over $4,000, while most averaged an amount closer to $500-$1,500  yearly raises.

Texas has over 1,000 public school districts—all but one of the school districts in Texas are independent, separate from any form of municipal government. School districts may (and often do) cross city and county boundaries. Independent school districts have the power to tax their residents and to assert eminent domain over privately owned property. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) oversees these districts, providing supplemental funding, but its jurisdiction is limited mostly to intervening in poorly performing districts.

School districts are now worried how the funding will come next term to be able to pay for these raises, as the funding was only given to the districts for this term, and no long term funding was established.

On SB2, limiting the counties from imposing a property tax increase more than 3.5%, and if they did, then it would trigger an election to include a rollback rate. Also at the last minute Rep. Dustin Burrows (R -Lubbock) removed the provision where the counties had to publicize the tax increase vote in the newspaper, stating they could post it on their websites instead. People in rural Texas have issues including no access to internet, or cannot afford a computer. Most do not have cell phone service due to the rural area. It also did away with the Robin Hood Fund, among several other things.

While this actually helped larger districts and cities and gave them more taxes back, and limited the amount the county could impose on the citizens, other smaller rural areas are feeling the hurt and struggling to survive. Smaller districts and communities have triggered an election because their tax increase to get the needed budget needed was roughly 4.1%, over the 3.5% cap enacted by the 86th Legistlature.

The counties have to wait for an election now (which will cost the counties more money) and hope it passes, just to fund needed local resources. For example, EMS, libraries, museums, senior centers. Some are stopping the raise at the rollback rate and below the 3.5% cap, but this includes cutting funding to much-needed resources, including some counties talking about ending unneeded or unmandated resources in the county.

The 86th hindered the smaller rural community’s chance to grow, to survive, and to continue being strong. The 86th hindered the ability for counties and rural communities to operate at a local level, and instead took state control of these communities, bypassing local government, and hindering growth.

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Addison Perry-Franks

Addison Perry-Franks is a proud Texan and Scurry County resident, active in her community. She has built a thriving small business that has successfully delivered IT solutions to national retail chains since 2008. She came out as transgender in May 2018 and has been happily married to her wife, Lacey for 11 years.  They have five children. 

Addison is also running in 2020 for Texas House of Representatives, District 83.

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