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The Richardson ISD Tax Election

Here are some thoughts on Richardson ISD’s request for a tax increase (called the TRE).

Obviously, no one opposes the best possible education for our kids.  The question is whether the TRE is the best tool to achieve that best possible education.

I have spent time with RISD staff discussing the need and the merit of the proposal that we begin voting on this week.  They have been open and honest, and we should all be grateful for that.

There are two major reasons for TRE.  The primary one is to raise teacher salaries.  RISD has been losing its best teachers to surrounding districts who offer better pay and benefits.  The secondary reason is to support rising administrative and educational costs.

The culprit in these rising costs is tax recapture (commonly called Robin Hood).  Because Texas has no state income tax, education must be funded from other sources (primarily property tax).  The money is available.  However, because our politicians have been unwilling to make the hard decisions about school funding, Robin Hood was created by a court order.

Robin Hood is confusing.  Basically, it requires that if home values and tax income in a school district are high, the district must send money to the state capital for redistribution to poorer districts.  Richardson pays no tax recapture right now.  If TRE is passed, the higher tax revenue will require paying recapture in the next tax cycle.

In other words, much of the funding created by passage of TRE will be confiscated by Robin Hood within 12-24 months.  We will not know how much the state will take until formulas are calculated.  It could be half of the new revenue.  It could be less or more.  The only certainty is that RISD taxpayers will be back in the same hole in 2-3 years while spending much more.

As we vote on TRE, the fundamental question is this:  Will we accept higher taxes for a short term fix that does not solve the longer term problem?

Would we be wiser to push our state legislators to create an equitable funding formula that eliminates Robin Hood?  There is at least one viable proposal to do so (from the Texas Public Policy Foundation).

Those are the facts.  If you are interested in my personal opinion, read further.

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Texas has one of the highest property burdens in America, ranking in the top four to six states (depending on the source and methodology).  Most of those property taxes fund education.  About half of the entire state budget, approximately $100 billion, is spent on education.  Throwing more money at education is not the answer.

Our problem is not funding.  It is the massive waste created by Robin Hood and the ravenous lobbyists who profit from this awkward and inefficient system.

I enthusiastically support Richardson ISD, but the rapid spiral of Texas taxation must stop.  We must pressure our political leaders to find real solutions.  I will vote against TRE, and I will press the state legislature to create a new educational answer NOW!  This is the only long term fix to the problems addressed by TRE.  If you would like to follow our continuing conversations on education and local politics in Dallas and Richardson, please subscribe.

Commentary by Chad Carnahan, a citizen of Richardson ISD