The information selected within the graph illustrates tax rates, values and taxes levied for Jack County school districts compared to other districts within their 2014-2016 UIL football alignments.
Ask any school superintendent or finance director and they’ll tell you, the school finance system in Texas is complicated.
Other taxing entities set a tax rate based on the previous year’s budget and estimated budgetary needs for the year ahead. Counties, cities and hospital districts are subject to rollback. They are allowed to adopt a tax rate that will capture up to 8 percent more than the previous year’s tax revenues. If those entities adopt a tax of which the receipts are more than 8 percent, as the Jack County hospital district did in recent years, taxpayers can file a petition to call for a rollback election and if voters disapprove that tax rate will not be allowed.
Schools are different.
According to the Texas Education Agency, state law places a cap of $1.17 per $100 of valuation for school district maintenance and operations (M&O) rates with the exception of six Harris County districts allowed to adopt rates over the cap. This law went into effect beginning with the 2006-2007 tax year when the Texas Legislature established a compressed tax rate.
Districts are limited to an M&O rate of $1.
04 unless they take it to the voters in the form of a rollback election. (Correction: It's a tax ratification election. Should voters choose in favor of a higher tax rate, it is subject to the $1.17 cap.
The three districts operating in Jack County — Jacksboro, Bryson and Perrin all have M&O rates of $1.04.
The districts’ interest and sinking (I&S) rates provides funds for payments on the debt that finances a district’s facilities. The combined tax rate cannot exceed $1.50. (Correction: The I&S tax rate cannot exceed 50 cents.)
Prior to the tax compression, each district in Jack County and the state operated at an M&O tax rate alone of or near $1.50 with an I&S rate on top of that if the district had debt.
Texas school finance also operates under a system of wealth equalization known as Chapter 41.
Districts are designated as either property wealthy or property poor. The relative wealth of the school district is measured in terms of the taxable value of property that lies within the school district borders divided by the number of students in weighted average daily attendance (WADA).
This is referred to as the “Robin Hood” plan because districts that are deemed to be property wealthy are required to share their wealth with property-poor school districts. The funds that are distributed by the property wealthy districts are “recaptured” by the school finance system to assist with financing of public education in school districts that are property poor.
All three districts in Jack County are Chapter 41 schools considered property wealthy. But only Bryson is not subject to recapture because its WADA is not high enough for the district to enter into the equalization phase of Chapter 41.
Last year, Jacksboro ISD sent a $3.2 million recapture payment to Austin and estimates that payment will be $2.9 million this year. Perrin-Whitt is looking at sending approximately $650,000 this year and has sent as much as $1 million and $900,000 in recent years.
The Chapter 41 recapture applies only to a district’s M&O tax, not it’s I&S.
To read the complete article, see the April 18 edition of The Jack County Herald.