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Op-ed: Houston BOMA Takes Position on HISD Proposition 1, Recapture

Thursday, October 20, 2016  
Posted by: Shannon Roberts
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The Ballot Beyond Trump and Clinton: HISD Prop 1 Vote to Hit Home for Houstonians in November


By: Tammy K. Betancourt 


While the entire country will be focused on the “Trump or Hillary” question, another issue sits down-ballot for Houstonians on Nov. 8, which will have a significant impact on Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) future and Houston tax payers.


The choice is simple. If HISD Proposition 1 passes, the school district will pay $162 million to the State of Texas under the 1993 recapture program or “Robin Hood Law” (Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code). If the referendum fails, 30 to 40 commercial properties currently generating tax revenue for HISD will be “detached” or “reassigned” to neighboring school districts, equaling an estimated $18 billion tax base loss for the school district.


Once a commercial property is detached, it will never be reattached to HISD, and the district will no longer be able to tax those properties to fund the repayment of debt. This is a major concern when considering the school districts future debt obligations, including the ongoing $1.9 billion construction bond program approved by voters in 2012. With less real estate to share the tax burden, losing those properties will cause HISD’s tax obligation to be spread over the remaining real estate in Houston, including residential, driving up taxes for all Houstonians.


 A “no” vote for HISD Prop 1 will hurt the school district, tax payers, and most importantly, the children of Houston. That is why the Houston Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) recommends voting “yes” on the ballot initiative and support HISD sending its recapture payment directly to the State of Texas as many other school districts have been doing for years.


With little motivation in the Texas Legislature to make meaningful change to school finance in the 2017 session, voting “yes” on HISD Prop 1 is the best way to ensure that the school district can continue funding its debt obligations, improve the schools in the district and retain nearly $18 billion of tax base.


Additionally, detaching and reattaching commercial properties has never occurred since the Robin Hood Plan was passed by the State Legislature in the early 90’s, adding additional confusion to a potential “no” vote in November.


Unfortunately, HISD has made the conscious decision to continuously fight the State of Texas in lieu of paying their fair share, as is required by law and as hundreds of other Texas school districts have over the last 23 years. Despite receiving record tax revenue due to rapidly escalating property valuations, HISD has avoided addressing their recapture fees for the last six years. HISD is taking a short-term view of a long-term problem, and that will hurt the City of Houston in the long run.  They are willing to dangerously gamble that the State Legislature will come to their aid with some sort of school finance revision.   To lose on this bet will have a permanent negative impact.


In an attempt to confuse voters, HISD also approved vague ballot language for the Nov. 8 election. The proposition will state: “Authorizing the board of trustees of Houston Independent School District to purchase attendance credits from the state with local tax revenues.”


What voters really need to know? Vote “for” spending $162 million of the district’s money, or vote “against” spending that money and risk taking $18 billion of the district’s commercial properties from the tax rolls and assigning them to other districts, which could create chaos for HISD and Houston tax payers.


So remember, this election is about more than “Trump or Clinton.” HISD Proposition 1 will directly affect Houstonians, which is why we are urging you go down-ballot and vote “yes” on Prop 1. 


Download the full op-ed here. 

Houston Building Owners & Managers Association.
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