in Houston, Texas
State comptroller's office wants to take over school districts' property tax break program
Tuesday, Jan 04, 2011, 11:20AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Money bag

The state agency that blew the whistle on school districts giving property tax breaks to businesses that do a miserable job of creating jobs thinks it ought to take over running the program.

A report by the Legislative Budget Board outlined today by the Austin American-Statesman agrees the state comptroller should decide which businesses should be eligible for the tax breaks and give school districts the right to veto the choices.

What isn't clear from the report is just how state government control might be any more efficient than school district control, or how the comptroller might induce certain industries, particularly in wind energy, to hire more people with the money they spend.

Nor was Dominic Giarratani, assistant director of government relations for the Texas Association of School Boards, able to explain how school districts might do a better job choosing job creating investments. Giarratani, instead, simply assured the Statesman that smaller is better. "We're leery of the big-government idea that the comptroller is going to know better than local officials," he said. "Local officials are in the best position to decide what the community needs."

The Budget Board's study was prompted by a comptroller's finding that 63 of the 98 tax break investments made by school districts have gone to wind farms that produce jobs at a rate 40 times less than those businesses getting tax breaks from Gov. Rick Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund. Wind farms produce a job for every $1.6 million of capital investment, according to the comptroller, 30 times the ratio for research and development projects given tax breaks and about 10 times the ratio for manufacturing ventures.

School districts were given the authority to make these property tax deals to lure new industries to their regions by the Texas Economic Development Act passed by the Legislature in 2001. The Legislative Budget Board report concludes that, perhaps, school districts ought not be in the economic development racket.

Contact Mark Lisheron at mark@texaswatchdog.org.

Comments
tired dog
Tuesday, 01/04/2011 - 10:45AM

No more abatements, exemptions, caps, rebates or deals of any kind. It's time to rescind all, including the old folk, veteran and disabled property tax adjustments. No more 'empowerment' zones, TIFs or TIRZs. End the property tax in Texas or force the pols to fade the heat when they raise the rates on every tax payer. (I assure you that within six months of ending the deals we'll be on the road to real tax reform for Texas) Spread the pain, end the divide and conquer, pick the winners and losers nonsense.

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