Some Collin County school districts rally behind school finance reform bill

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify tax rate compression numbers.

Several Collin County educators have thrown support behind Texas House Bill 3, a school finance reform bill that would add $9 billion in funding over the next two years.

The bill not only increases teacher pay and student funding but also follows this legislative session’s theme of property tax reform by compressing school districts’ tax rate by $0.04 on average.

House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, briefed representatives from nine Collin County school districts about the bill on March 15 in Plano. The group included superintendents and school board members from Frisco, McKinney, Plano  and others.

The bill is designed to reduce recapture payments by 38 percent, Huberty said during a press conference that followed the briefing. PISD Superintendent Sara Bonser, who also attended the press conference, said she is optimistic about the proposal.

“We’ve been paying recapture in Plano for a very long time,” Bonser said. “This year, there will be $211 million that will go back to the state in the form of recapture. Any relief that we can find in recapture is a benefit to this community and to our school district.”

Though the bill does not completely do away with recapture, Huberty said it is a good first step to reduce recapture payments until the state can identify another revenue stream to replace it.

One method in HB 3 for reducing recapture is by compressing school district tax rates. Districts with a maintenance and operations tax rate of $1.17 per $100 valuation, the maximum allowed by the state, would see the largest reduction in their tax rates to $1.09.

Huberty said more than 400 of the 1,200 school districts in Texas have their M&O tax rates at $1.17. Several local school districts, including FISD and Richardson ISD, held tax elections in November that raised the M&O tax rate to $1.17.

“The voters went out, and we’re listening in the legislature [to those who say]$1.17 is unsustainable,” Huberty said. “So we’re going to reduce those tax rates.”

The bill would also increase the level of funding per student by $890 and increases the minimum teacher salary schedule.

The House bill differs from Senate Bill 3, which proposes increasing teacher and librarian salaries by $5,000. SB 3 was passed in the state Senate earlier this month, but HB 3 is still pending in a House committee.

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Lindsey Juarez
Lindsey has been involved in newspapers in some form since high school. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2014 with a degree in Journalism. While attending UTA, she worked for The Shorthorn, the university's award-winning student newspaper. She was hired as Community Impact Newspaper's first Frisco reporter in 2014. Less than a year later, she took over as the editor of the Frisco edition. Since then, she has covered a variety of topics and issues important to the community, including the city's affordable housing shortage, the state's controversial A-F school accountability system and the city's "Bury the Lines" efforts.
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