in Houston, Texas
Texas state Sen. Robert Duncan calls for state property tax for schools
Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012, 12:44PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

State Sen. Robert Duncan has banged his biennial gong for the state to take over property tax collection for public education.

Normally timed prior to a session of the Legislature to get ahead of the Chicken Little school finance crowd, Duncan, R-Lubbock, may be the beneficiary of the claxon sounds of nearly half the public school districts suing the state of Texas.

The lawsuit is scheduled to commence Oct. 22 in Austin.

An influential longtime member of the Senate Finance Committee and its Subcommittee on Public Education Funding, Duncan is asking the Legislature to consider a statewide tax of $1 for every $100 valuation of property to operate all public schools in Texas, the Dallas Morning News reports.

The statewide tax would supplant local property taxes, but allow individual school districts to add as much as 17 cents per $100 valuation more for their own programs, according to Duncan’s proposal.

As he did right about this time in 2010, Duncan promised, as politicians are wont to do, a statewide property tax would not - and we repeat on the senator’s behalf - not be a tax increase.

Texas last taxed property to pay for public education in 1975, according to a report on the impact of such a tax prepared last year by the Property Tax Assistance Division of the state Comptroller’s office.

Less than a third of the states have a statewide property tax, and only a handful of them use any of the money collected to fund public education, a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures says.

However sane Duncan sounds as he continues to present this alternative funding universe, expect the thunder of local control advocacy to join in the noisy school finance symphony, performed from now until the end of the 2013 session.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of 'tax' by flickr user 401(K) 2012, used via a Creative Commons license.

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