The Texas Legislature convened Jan. 8.
What we reported
State lawmakers say finding relief for rising property tax bills and changing the state’s system of school financing are at the top of the agenda for the 86th Texas Legislature, and local officials are watching closely. On Jan. 15, Gov. Greg Abbott was sworn in for his second term on the steps of the Texas Capitol. In his inaugural address, Abbott said the state “must finally rein in skyrocketing property taxes in Texas.” Abbott has proposed to require a resident vote if a taxing entity raises property tax revenue more than 2.5 percent over the previous year. Currently, taxing entities such cities, counties and school districts, are able to raise property tax revenue by up to 8 percent without a vote. According to the Texas Tribune, both the Texas House and Texas Senate unveiled budget proposals in January that would significantly increase state funding for public schools. Meanwhile, for the 2018-19 school year, Austin ISD will for the first time send more than half of its tax revenue to the state in order to help fund districts with lower property values. AISD Chief of Business and Operations Nicole Conley Johnson said she is more confident than in years past that the 2019 legislative session will offer districts with more financial relief than they have historically received.
School finance reform and property tax caps are the biggest issues facing the Legislature, but they are not the only issues that could affect Austin. City Council passed an ordinance in February 2018 mandating employers provide paid sick leave for their workers. That ordinance is currently facing a challenge in the courts, but it also is in jeopardy as some members of the Legislature seek to deem the city policy unconstitutional. Austin Intergovernmental Relations Officer Brie Franco also said this fall that city policies on fair-chance hiring; local short-term rental rules; and deregulation of publicly owned utilities, such as Austin Energy, could come under scrutiny during this session.
This post is part of Community Impact Newspaper’s Annual Community Guide, which appears in the January 2019 Central Austin print edition. In addition to ten stories to follow for the upcoming year, the Annual Community Guide provides readers with local information on the area’s demographics as well as the latest news in transportation, health care, education and development.