Homeowners in Austin district to pay 10% more in school taxes

4:01 p.m Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017 Local

The owner of the average home in the Austin school district will shell out $374 more this year in property taxes for schools.

Austin school trustees on Monday night adopted the district’s 2017-18 school tax rate, which remains unchanged from last year. But the owner of the average taxable value home will pay $4,291, an increase of $374 over last year, because the average taxable value of a home in the district rose 10 percent to $359,947.

The school board adopted a tax rate of $1.192, with $1.079 for maintenance and operations and 11.3 cents for debt repayment, per $100 valuation. It’s one of the lowest tax rates among Central Texas school districts.

The school board in June adopted its 2017-18 budget of nearly $1.5 billion, including an operating budget of $914.1 million. The budget includes employee raises of 1.5 percent, which totals more than $8.5 million, creating a dyslexia project at Covington Middle School, launching a Montessori program at Winn Elementary and expanding early college high schools.

The district also is expected to dole out $534 million — about $1,700 of the average Austin homeowner’s property tax bill for schools — for the mandatory recapture payment to the state. The state’s school finance system requires districts with high property values, such as Austin, to subsidize districts in areas with low property values. Austin pays the most of any district in the state, and its payments have more than doubled in the past five years.

The upcoming recapture payment increased 32 percent, or by $127.8 million, over last year.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that the state has put us into,” Trustee Julie Cowan said. “It’s a real shame when we have so many needs … that we’re having to give away so much money to the state because they cannot seem to put together a solvent school finance system.”

The Austin district won’t get any additional money under a new law that infused some districts with extra funding. The bill, however, creates a commission to study and make recommendations for changes to the state’s school funding system.

Locally, a proposal to reduce the recapture payment and provide taxpayers some relief with a tax swap between the city of Austin and the school district fizzled last week. Mayor Steve Adler said he won’t pursue a tax swap with the district this year, but there’s still a chance the option could get another look next year.

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