Nearly $2 Million at Stake

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – To say school finance in the state of Texas is confusing, is an understatement at best.  There are many factors at play in determining how much state funding a school district will receive, however, a large percentage is based on the property valuation in each individual district.

At least once every two years, the Texas Comptroller’s Office is required to conduct a Property Value Study (PVS) to determine the total taxable value of all property in each school district, per Government Code Section 403.302.

In addition, county appraisal districts (CAD) throughout the state conduct a yearly property appraisal. To determine how much funding each district will receive, the PVS and local results are reviewed, contrasted and compared.

The comptroller has established a margin of error between the two findings and if the comparison falls within this range, the school district receives the comptroller’s blessing and life continues.

“The primary purpose of the PVS is to help ensure equitable distribution of state funding for public education,” according to the comptroller’s website.

The problem occurs when the comparison falls outside of this range and Houston County, we have a problem.

According to information provided by the Houston County Appraisal District, “(The) Texas Comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division (PTAD) found 184 school districts did not meet its criteria for the 2018 Property Value Study (PVS) preliminary findings released Jan. 31. The PTAD’s findings of 184 districts was a five-year high for the number of districts whose taxable property values were not within the required margin of error.”

Of these 184 districts, all five “… ISD’s in Houston County had invalid findings and four out of those five ISD’s have school funding at stake. Crockett ISD, Kennard ISD, Latexo ISD and Grapeland ISD were assigned a state value, which is significantly greater than the local tax roll value.”

Crockett ISD faces a possible loss of $790,000 in school funds. Grapeland stands to lose $510,000, Kennard is looking at a $334,000 loss and Latexo may lose $265,000.

“These school districts will be further penalized by having to pay delinquent tax attorneys 10 percent of the above amounts to recover these funds.  Lovelady ISD has invalid findings, but they are considered to be in Year One of a grace period and will not have school funding at stake,” the HCAD info stated.

It is believed Crockett, Grapeland, Kennard and Latexo will be filing appeals with the PTAD in hopes of lowering the states estimate of property wealth. The appeals are due to the PTAD on March 12th. The HCAD office, along with the agent for the ISD’s, have already been reviewing and gathering information that will be submitted to PTAD, the appraisal district information revealed.

“The Crockett, Grapeland, Kennard, Latexo and Lovelady school district Superintendents and Business Managers met with the Chief Appraiser, Carey Minter and via tele-conference with delinquent tax attorney representative Carla Pope-Osborne to discuss the findings of the PVS,” the e-mail stated.

The state of Texas funds its public education system through state and local funds, based on the total taxable property value within each school district.

“In very general terms,” according to HCAD, “school districts with less taxable property value per student receive more state dollars for each pupil than school districts with more value per student. State property values have significantly increased in recent years.”

The 2018 PVS was released on Jan. 31, 2019 and the results will be used in the 2019/2020 school year.

If you are contacted by the Appraisal District or its representative, they will let you know what the information they are requesting will be used for.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.