PRESS RELEASE: Property Taxes, Public Education Initiatives Among First Bills Filed By Rep. Eddie Rodriguez

CONTACT: Laura Stromberg Hoke (512) 689-7393

Property Taxes, Public Education Initiatives
Among First Bills Filed By Rep. Eddie Rodriguez

AUSTIN, TX – Monday, December 16, 2014 – State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez announced his first batch of bills for the 84th legislative session, focusing on property tax and public education policy initiatives. 

HB 490 would permit local governments to adopt a percentage homestead exemption limit as an alternative to the percentage homestead exemption currently permitted. The bill is contingent on voter approval of a constitutional amendment permitting such an exemption.

HJR 57 would amend the Constitution to authorize governing bodies that adopt tax cuts of a percentage of market values of an individual’s residence homestead to be able to set limits on the dollar amount of the exemption to which an individual is entitled to in a tax year.

A limited exemption directs more of the benefits to middle income households as a fair way to reduce property taxes for homeowners. This increases the flexibility of local governments to use the homestead exemption as a way to provide property tax cuts to citizens. It also affords local governments better control over the amount of revenue foregone.

Another bill slated to be filed this week will remove future estimated tax appraisals from appraisal notices. These estimates on the appraisal notice are rarely accurate since the previous year’s tax rate must be used. Moreover, the presence of these estimates focuses taxpayer complaints at the appraisal district rather than at the taxing units that establish the budget and set the tax rate.

Last session, the Texas Legislature overwhelmingly passed HB 5, a bill that allows high school students to choose their pathway to post-secondary readiness.  Dual credit courses have long been recognized as courses that prepare students for college and the workforce.  Students enrolled in dual credit course may earn credit toward a high school diploma and an associate’s degree at a community college. While students attending an Early College High School may take an unlimited number of dual credit courses, students at a traditional high school may only take two dual credit courses per semester.  HB 505 removes the limit on the number of dual credit courses, allowing students to better prepare themselves for college and their career.

To keep up with the exploding economic development occurring in Texas, HB 506 seeks to amend the 50 cent debt test to make it more efficient and return decision-making to the local taxpayers. Established in 1991, the law states the rate for debt service payments for any school district cannot exceed $0.50 per $100 to pay off a bond.  This threshold cap is arbitrary, as it fails to account for the 80,000 new students that enter public schools every year.  More importantly, it ignores the local taxpayers’ wishes seeking to invest in quality school buildings. The law is also now inefficient and punitive as districts cannot pay off a bond sooner because the cap leads to a longer repayment period and higher interest rates. HB 506 targets 57 ISDs which are fast growth and within five cents of the cap. These fast-growth ISDs shall adopt a capital improvement plan, must demonstrate they are efficient with their dollars and must demonstrate a savings in their plan. This bill adds important safeguards and will not change the Attorney General’s role in performing the legal and financial test on whether ISDs can issue the bond and lastly, parents and business leaders still get to decide at the ballot box. This bill ensures Texas has a strong economy and businesses have an educated and skilled workforce.