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Under House school finance bill, Austin would get to keep $194 million more in taxes in 2020

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 by Claire McInerny, KUT

Austin Independent School District would pay $194 million less in recapture in 2020 if House Bill 3, the chamber’s $9 billion school finance plan, is passed.

Recapture is the law that requires “property-rich” school districts, like Austin ISD and most other major Texas cities, to pay back a portion of their property taxes to the state to fund poorer and rural school districts. Austin ISD has the highest recapture payment in the state, with half of its local property taxes going to other districts.

This fiscal year, AISD expects to pay $669 million to the state in recapture.

The projections also show AISD would receive more money per student from the state.

Under the bill, lawmakers also promised a small property tax cut to homeowners. The projection shows a $100 savings on a $200,000 home in Austin.

AISD is facing a budget crisis as enrollment in the district continues to decline. Nicole Conley Johnson, AISD chief of business and operations, said if the bill is passed in its current form it would be a great help.

“Now we can have a conversation about salary increases without figuring out how do we pay for it,” she said. “It also allows us to sustain programming like full-day pre-K .… We’ll look at funding early-literacy programs and our dual-language programs. So, it really allows us to apply the monies where we need it the most in terms of programming and teacher salaries and raises.”

The district’s financial problems led it and the board to approve a plan in February to close and consolidate some schools. Conley Johnson said the district will go ahead with this plan regardless of whether it receives more state funding. She said any additional money AISD gets would go toward academics and salaries rather than overhead at under-enrolled schools.

The House is scheduled to debate and vote on the bill Wednesday. If it passes, it would head to the Senate. Lawmakers there have their own $9 billion plan, which differs greatly from the House plan.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

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