Saturday, July 24, 2010

Where do Your Property Taxes Go? School Districts in SA

Now we come to the government entity that receives the lion's share, or about half of your property taxes, your local school district.  There are 13 different school districts that lie within or partially within Bexar County. (There are three military school districts but these are supported by the U.S. Government.) Each district has its own taxing rate.

Alamo Heights ISD                            1.162
East Central ISD                                1.3195
Edgewood ISD                                  1.42
Harlandale ISD                                  1.479
Judson ISD                                        1.463
North East ISD                                  1.4029
Northside ISD                                   1.3375
San Antonio ISD                               1.2497
Schertz-Ciobolo-Universal City ISD   1.42
Somerset ISD                                   1.228     
South San Antonio ISD                     1.4338
Southside ISD                                   1.3689
Southwest ISD                                  1.2432

How do they figure your taxes?  Take the appraised value of your home as determined by the appraisal district then subtract any exemptions you may have (homestead, over 65) to arrive at the taxable value of your property. Next move the decimal place on the tax rate of your school district two places (i.e. change 1.162 to .01162, the tax rate is a percentage) and then multiply it by the taxable value.  If you don't want to go through all this rigmarole visit the Bexar Appraisal Website.  Type in your name, last name first and click search.  To find out information about your tax bill click View Details. You can find out your approximate tax bill by clicking on the taxing jurisdicition tab.

You may wonder how Alamo Heights can get away with such a low tax rate.  It has some of the highest appraised property in the city and it's a small district.   Also, why there is such a diversity in the size of districts?  Back in 1949, Bexar County was split up into independent school districts, mostly by population.  Nowadays Northside is the 4th largest district in student population in the state and has housing property values that range from the mid $30,000s to millions of dollars, but back in 1949 it was in the boonies where very few people lived, in fact the population was so sparse that part of the district extends into Bandera and Medina Counties.  But now Northside is growing so fast because of its desirability as a school distrtict, the varying property values and the large availability of vacant land for housing.

You probably can figure out some of the places your tax dollar goes: teacher and administrative salaries, new schools, new classrooms, technology, science equipment, gym and sports equipment and school books.  You might also want to add in security.  Most large school districts have their own police force to protect the students and to control drug use and violence.

Along with property tax money, school districts also receive federal assistance, usually based on the number of low income students they have.  Usually, the poorer the district, the more federal assistance they recieve.

School Financing in Texas has had a checkered history.  Probably the most fought over legislation was the Robin Hood Plan, or robbing the rich school districts to give money to the poor ones.
On May 28, 1993, the legislature passed a multi-option plan for reforming school finance. Under the plan, each school district would help to equalize funding through one of five methods: (1) merging its tax base with a poorer district, (2) sending money to the state to help pay for students in poorer districts, (3) contracting to educate students in other districts, (4) consolidating voluntarily with one or more other districts, or (5) transferring some of its commercial taxable property to another district's tax rolls. If a district did not choose one of these options, the state would order the transfer of taxable property; if this measure failed to reduce the district's property wealth to $280,000 per student, the state would force a consolidation. This plan was signed into law by Governor Richards on May 31, 1993, and was accepted by Judge McCown. The action guaranteed that schools would receive funding for the 1993–94 academic year. Many poorer school districts still challenged the constitutionality of the new law, however, and Judge McCown set September 1, 1993, as the deadline for them to file their complaints. In January 1995 the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the options plan was constitutional but that the legislature still needed to work on equalizing and improving school facilities throughout the state.
So, everything you always wanted to know about property taxes, but were afraid to ask.  My next series will explain everything you always wanted to know about Zoning.

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