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November 29, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Public Education Subcommittee Hearings Continue in Galveston

The Sadler Subcommittee of the Joint Interim Committee on Public School Finance met with Galveston area residents today, Tuesday, November 29, 2001. The committee has split into two subcommittees to enable it to travel to more places. They are listening to the public's ideas on how the state should finance public schools and the full committee will report its findings to the 78th Legislature in 2003.

Representative Patricia Gray from the Galveston area welcomed the subcommittee, noting that Galveston County faces issues that are seen all across the state. LaMarque Independent School District (ISD) officials led off the list of witnesses, saying that while they are currently recognized for excellence, funding problems may place that status in jeopardy. Other area school district representatives said that they were all facing the same problem - high growth without the financial resources that they need.

In some places industrial plants have been closed, causing the tax base and school income to shrink. Dr. Walter Wilson of the Friendswood ISD said his problem was that, as a bedroom community without any industry, his district has no industrial base to generate high tax revenues. That means the district can't pay enough to hire the best employees. The representatives of the small school districts said they're having trouble competing with Houston ISD for teachers. School board members from Clear Creek called for the elimination of what they called abuses in the agricultural use exemption. Apparently, large corporations that own large tracts of land don't have to pay full property taxes because they own a few head of livestock. Regarding the shortage of teachers, Houston ISD officials said that school districts from as far away as California have been advertising in Houston for educators, so the competition for skilled employees isn't just local, it's national.

The chief tax appraiser for Harris County recommended that the state take a close look at how business property accounts are handled. He pointed out that in Harris County alone a study showed that approximately two billion dollars of property that is not on the property tax rolls should be taxed. He also criticized the Legislature for creating too many exemptions in the tax law.

Galveston ISD officials testified that reducing or eliminating the homestead exemption as a way to raise district income would make it impossible to pass future bond issues needed to address critical facilities needs.

The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance is Co-Chaired by Senator Teel Bivins and Representative Paul Sadler. Members include Senators Steve Ogden, Florence Shapiro, Eliot Shapleigh, Leticia Van De Putte and Royce West. Members from the House of Representatives include Harold Dutton, Kent Grusendorf, Scott Hochberg, Rene Olivera and Todd Smith. Public members include Kent Caperton, Will Davis, Craig Foster, Lyndon Olson, Mark Stiles and David Thompson. Also at today's meeting was Senator Mike Jackson of La Porte. The subcommittee recessed subject to call of the chair. Its next meeting is scheduled for December 6 in Price, Texas.

Witness list

You can access the archived video webcast from the web page of the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance.

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