With Proposition 1 dead, State legislators have been scrambling to come up with an alternative plan to meet a June 1 court order to equalize school funding.
Consolidation of school districts seemed to be the direction the legislators were headed. But the consolidation bill written by Rep. Libby Linebarger never made it to the House floor for a vote due to massive opposition.
At the time of Advocate publication, Senate Bill 1 had surfaced as a viable alternative to both legislators and citizens.
Under the plan, a business located within a wealthy school district will be put on the tax roles of a nearby, property-poor school district. Enough business property would be transferred out of the district to bring total property wealth down to a legally acceptable level, about $280,000 per student.
The property wealth per student for Richardson is $310,000. Richardson would be required to transfer enough commercial property tax revenue out of the district to bring the property wealth per student ratio down to the State level.
The most obvious commercial property that would qualify for a tax roll transfer in Richardson is Texas Instruments. For the ’91-’92 school year, Texas Instruments was the principal taxpayer in Richardson, paying $9.1 million.
According to Arzell Ball, RISD superintendent, Richardson would lose about $7 million under Senate Bill 7. Under the County Education District plan, or Robin Hood, RISD lost $9 million during the ’92-’93 school year.
“Financially, we will be in the same situation as we have been with the CEDs,” says Will Jacobs, RISD’s chief financial officer.
But RISD officials don’t see Senate Bill 7 as anything but a legislative effort to prevent the courts from cutting off school funding.
“I see Senate Bill 7 as a step in the right direction,” Ball says. “It does not require a constitutional amendment or voter approval, and it meets the court decision that there must be equity among public schools.
“However, it’s still a leveling down of education, and it’s only a temporary solution to the problem. It’s better than consolidation, but the legislators still need to find a solution,” he says.
“Local property tax will not adequately fund public education, and the State must restructure its tax base,” he says.
“They could recapture all of our money, and it still wouldn’t be enough to fund public education.”
Under Senate Bill 7, all residential and agricultural property taxes will remain within the district.