HISD voters will be asked on May 6 how the district should pay its Recapture obligation to the state of Texas: by Purchasing Attendance Credits or through Detachment of Commercial Property. Here’s the language that will appear on the ballot:
Recapture on May 6 ballot:
Authorizing the board of trustees of Houston Independent School District to purchase attendance credits from the State of Texas with local tax revenues.
Yes, in November 2016, HISD voters rejected Proposition 1 and purchasing attendance credits, making HISD subject to Detachment to pay its Recapture obligation. Since then, action by the Texas Education Agency and other factors have reduced HISD’s Recapture obligation from about $162 million to about $77.5 million. Future payments have been reduced as well.
The vote has also started a conversation among legislators in Austin about changing the state’s outdated school finance system. In response, the HISD Board of Education called a new election for May 6, 2017, giving voters another opportunity to decide how HISD will pay its Recapture obligation.
Due to rising property values, HISD’s wealth level per student exceeded the level set by the Legislature in the 1993 “Robin Hood” school finance law. Under the current law, even a school district like HISD with almost 80% economically disadvantaged students and over 30% English language learners is considered wealthy and therefore subject to recapture. As long as property wealth grows in Houston, and the state’s school finance system remains the same, HISD will continue to remain in Recapture.
A vote FOR purchasing attendance credits will allow HISD to make Recapture payments to the State, but if the district’s total tax collections continue to grow, they will help to offset these payments. A vote AGAINST purchasing attendance credits will allow commercial properties to be detached from HISD, and the district will lose those tax collections from district operations. As more and more commercial properties are detached, a larger percentage of the responsibility to fund public education would shift to homeowners and remaining business owners. In addition, the district will lose future tax collections on the detached property used to pay back the district’s debt for building schools. These tax collections are not lost under the Purchase of Attendance Credits.