Dear old Golden Rule days – Part two
By D S Gands
Jul 17, 2003
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Without actually looking at several factors, determining the formula utilized for setting a school district tax rate is an overwhelming task.  The examples from the Comptroller’s report published November 2002 for the tax year 2001, offers a closer look at the self-reports made by the Texas School Districts.     

Depending on the amount of certain kinds of properties, the size of the community, the number of students in the school system for that district, and any deductions allowed for freezes/caps/productivity losses and more, the bottom line varies from district to district.  For example, Bonham at $5.14M is closest to Pottsboro at $4.93M, however the populations are dissimilar (Bonham was 9,990 and Pottsboro was 1,579 in 2000) and the factors in the equation for Pottsboro include higher taxable values for acreage and commercial properties.  Denison had a tax levy in the amount of $12.4M and Sherman was $26.4M, but the commercial and industrial property taxable values, including the industrial personals, and the multi-family residentials are far greater for Sherman.  The Sherman rate is $.10 higher per $100 of value than Denison, as well.

But, we must understand that the equity in educational considerations takes from the wealthier Districts and gives to the less fortunate ones.  In Austin, they call it ‘Robin Hood’, but the Edgewood case called it equity for all school children.   There are those that have brought suit to alter school district boundaries to have their tax dollars fund the school of choice in the area.  Sadler/Southmayd and Sherman had such a situation last year, wherein residents who purchased in the S&S tax zone chose to send their children to Sherman ISD.  Last year, they decided that they no longer wanted to pay tuition for their children to go to another school and pay taxes in their residential district.  S&S is reported to have lost a $9M tax base for their District, which will likely have to come from the ‘Robin Hood’ plan currently in place.

Recent legislation in Austin authored by Todd Smith of Tarrant County is requesting that the comptroller be relieved of all property tax valuations and that a State Board of Property Valuation be organized and staffed by appointment of the Governor to oversee property taxation.  There have been recommendations to lower property taxes to a statewide rate of $.75 per $100 valuation and raise sales and other business taxes, and to increase the rate for multi-family residentials to compensate for the ‘Robin Hood’ system.  We could call this one ‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’.  It still costs about $4,300 per school year to educate each child, and getting more expensive each day.  Asking for new business taxes will help alleviate some of the cost burden for residential property owners, but it is still coming out of the same pockets.

There is any number of ways that public school systems are utilizing resources to relieve budget deficits, though, and every community can follow this suit without robbing anyone.  Some North Texas elementary schools are actively using Foster Grandparents as part-time respite for young students in reading projects and other activities.  Other volunteers are organizing projects through the Parent Teacher groups and actively managing those programs on a volunteer basis.

Regardless of the income level of a student family, the schools are in need of supplies and materials to support their programs.  The average cost per State calculations for one student is $4300 per year.  There are approximately 8,500 schools in Texas that need materials and supplies to support their programs, and approximately 70,000 new students entering the system each year. 

Teachers are in need of supplies for their rooms, in addition to the standard school supplies for students at all grade levels, particularly elementary and middle school grades.  Construction paper, labels, name tags, markers, stickers and stars, string, tape, copy paper, folders, hanging files, binders, yardsticks, rulers, chalk (colored is great!), index cards and holder, calendars, paper towels, tissues, and special needs for projects are always welcome at your local schools.  If you want to contact the facility to donate materials and supplies for the teachers, please contact the principal at the facility of your choice to determine what the needs are and to coordinate your efforts.

Contacting Adopt A Classroom allows you to designate a district, school, or classroom to which funds can specifically be donated.  Donations begin at $500, and will be audited and reported back to the donor by the organization.  This would be an excellent opportunity for your church, group, other organization or business/corporate interest to extend a helping hand to a local school with a tax-deductible donation without the stress of organizing your own exempt organization and fundraisers.

A closer look at Texas revealed only a few plans in this state that are recognized on the Internet.  Victoria has a great program for filling a school bus with donated items for classrooms, which has been parked at the local Wal-Mart and filled with supplies.

Another inspirational program is in Laredo, where one man has organized an annual event to collect school supplies for low-income children.

A grant of up to $3,000 to educators for materials and supplies from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation.   It requires detailed information and a superintendent’s endorsement, but could be well worth the time if the award is granted.

For the cost of a tank of gasoline, a donor could gift a classroom with enough materials to supplement a project for a single classroom.  A $500 donation through the Adopt A Classroom organization could provide much needed supplies and materials for several classrooms in a school of your choice.  Your Parent Teacher organization may have a tax-deductible program for you to consider.  If we get creative and begin working together to establish a reasonable tax laws, participate in assistance in the form of donations of time and materials, and get involved in the governance and management of our school districts, it is possible to control costs and provide a quality education for the youth of Texas.

D S Gands is a freelance writer living in North Texas.  You may contact her regarding this article at  This article does not represent the position of this publication.  The opinions are those of the author. 

© D.S. Gands, 2003, All Rights Reserved