Thursday, July 28, 2011

As Long As It's Not a Tax...


A school district in Texas, ranked high for managing their money well and getting a strong return on investment, had to go to residents for a property tax increase vote last month. The increase in the ISD portion of the property tax would have been the equivalent of a bag of Lay's chips a week and would NOT have affected residents 65 or older (who only made up 4% of the population in 2000). Despite all the evidence that the ISD does manage its money well, "The Keller school district is one of the best in the state at achieving cost-effective academic success, according to a report released Wednesday", the prevailing talking point was "they mismanage money so don't deserve any more". Sure, the ISD had some frivolous expenses that could have been cut. But even all the frivolous cuts added up wouldn't have saved the budget. Considering the entire state (minus a few ISDs) is facing school budget cuts, blaming any single ISD for mismanagement is a bit lame. When the evidence shows the opposite, it's not just lame, it's moronic.

Aside from teacher layoffs, program cuts and summer school cancellation, buses were cut.

Now parents have to pay for their kids to ride a bus.

NOW parents are demanding sidewalks be built.

Keller has been booming, in part because Texas is a popular business state. People move to Texas for jobs. They choose towns like Keller because of their high ranking. Because of that, the district grew by 36% between 2000 and 2006. The population increased 45% between 2000 and 2010. In 2000, the under-18 population was 33.7%. The average household size is 3.41, which means an average of more than one child per household.

The homeowner rate is around 90%, the median mortgage is $2268, the median home value is $173,000. The median household income is $115,723. The property tax rate for the ISD is $1.53/$100. That means property taxes going to the ISD on a median priced home is a total of $2647/year.

It costs the ISD $6,204 to educate each child. Their target revenue per student is $5,200 -- one of the lowest in the area.

So a school district that educates kids at a high return on investment, as determine by the Republican state comptroller, lost a vote to raise property taxes in an amount equivalent to a bag of chips a week.

The increase would have been $260/year for a $200,000 house (above the median) but starting the next school year it will cost

$185 per semester to ride the bus to school. Additional students will cost a family an additional $135 per student per semester.
Economically disadvantaged parents will pay $100 per child per semester to ride the bus.
With two semesters in a year, riding the bus will cost $370 for one child. Since the average household is 3.41, the average family will pay more like $640.

Even the $200 per year, per child, for poor kids is woefully unfair. A family who rents and pays their landlord's property tax in their rent, would not have seen a dent had property taxes gone up. But now THEY have to find $200 or more a year just to get to school.

And now they want the city to build sidewalks. Do they think sidewalks are free to build? In this "Taxed Enough Already" climate, people get so stuck on the word "taxes", that they completely miss the consequential costs of not paying taxes.

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