Less property tax and more teacher pay, that's the main message behind new legislation signed by Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday. State Senator Robert Duncan traveled the South Plains Thursday discussing the new laws with local educators. First, teachers will receive a $2,000 pay increase across the board. Secondly, the legislation calls for most districts to cut school operating taxes by about one-third. That means a savings for property owners.
What many people have probably heard is $2,000 savings. Well that is spread across three years, and based on an average home value of $180,000. We wanted to boil it down. This year, property owners will see a decrease of 17-cents, per $100 of assessed value of their property. So, for an average $85,000 home, owners will save about $145. Next year, owners save another 33-cents per $100 of assessed value. Adding the 17-cent savings this year, and the 33-cent savings next year, that comes to a 50-cent savings. So, in two years, owners will save $425 on the same $85,000 home. There is a catch, if you will. The state says schools can tack on an extra 4-cents to property taxes to recoup some money. So, that 17-cent savings this year could be cut down to 13-cents, but the state has mandated that any higher increase must receive voter approval.
This legislation package also includes money to pay teachers a bonus for improving student performance. During this coming school year that bonus would be tied closely to student scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or the TAKS Test. That could scare some parents to think that teachers will only teach to that test, but Lubbock ISD Superintendent Wayne Havens says next year, each school will set guidelines, in accordance with state standards, as to how those bonuses are given out. "You can't cookie cutter an incentive plan. The diversity in the state of Texas, there is no apple to apples comparison."
These new laws also call for incoming freshmen to complete four years of math and science to graduate. NewsChannel 11 asked if that will cut into elective classes, and school leaders in Lubbock say it probably will. Students will have to find ways to squeeze classes they need, and classes they want into their schedule. Educators suggest cutting study halls, or taking online classes if they are available.
You're probably wondering how schools are going to operate with less money? Well, now they'll receive tax revenue from a new business tax, cigarette tax, and used car sale tax. Part of the state's $8.2-billion surplus will also be injected into local school budgets.
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