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Archive for April 4th, 2017

Just in case you didn’t know, HISD voters have an election coming up in less than three weeks. Early Voting in Person starts on April 24. It is on the recapture issue. Would you please listen to HISD Trustee Anna Eastman on the argument for voting yes? Folks should have listened to her last fall. Here is her Op-Ed that ran in yesterday’s Chron:

At least once a day, I find myself in a conversation about Texas public school finance. This is not entirely unexpected considering I serve as a school board trustee for the Houston Independent School District. This year’s debate, however, is more complex and vexing than the usual fights over funding cuts and will culminate with a districtwide election on May 6. HISD voters need to understand what’s at stake.

Simply, an independent school district in Texas goes into “recapture” and becomes a Chapter 41 or “Robin Hood” district when the ratio of the district’s property values as compared to the students enrolled in that district rise above the wealth level the state has determined is sufficient to fund those students’ education. We can vote to “purchase attendance credits” to swap dollars for kids who aren’t attending our schools and bring us into line with that wealth level per child, or we can vote for the state to detach commercial properties from our tax base and add those properties’ revenues to another district with lower property wealth.

In either scenario, HISD loses money. But the former is the better option. When we purchase attendance credits, HISD loses funds that pay for the district’s maintenance and operations expenses (think teachers, administration and other student services.) When the state detaches property, we lose maintenance and operations funds, too, but HISD also loses the ability to raise interest and sinking taxes on the detached properties, revenue we use to pay our bond debts and other facility costs.

We did just vote on this issue a few months ago, but we find ourselves with a different set of circumstances today. Last fall, we were expecting to pay $162 million dollars in recapture this year, either through a check to the state or by detaching property with values that could generate that revenue. As of today, that amount has been lowered about $77.5 million due to a reinterpretation by the Commissioner of Education of the way your local homestead exemption is calculated in the finance formula. The amount was also affected by our final property valuation from 2015 and student enrollment numbers. This point is critical because it highlights that the recapture amounts fluctuate and the amount we may be required to send in by check can decrease. But if the property is detached, the loss of the tax revenue from that real estate is permanent.

Most of us believe that the finance system as it stands today is broken on multiple levels. First and foremost, your Robin Hood dollars do not increase the overall pot of money distributed to schools – whether paid by the purchase of attendance credits or through detachment. Rather, the state lowers the amount it is contributing to the effort to equalize funding for all kids, and places those dollars in the general revenue fund, not for public education. We also know that the funding formula that includes “weights,” or more funding, for English language learners, low-income and at-risk children have not been revised in three decades. The system must be fixed to ensure Texas schoolchildren are receiving appropriate funding for their education.

In the meantime, Houston ISD should not willingly give away our largest revenue streams to other districts. As values rise, more property will be detached, and we will be left with homeowners carrying all of the load. Businesses that are at risk of paying a higher tax rate than their neighbor are likely to relocate or not choose us at all. That’s bad for HISD, and bad for Houston.

Voters should support the ballot measure authorizing HISD to purchase attendance credits on May 6.

Eastman represents District 1 on the HISD school board.

Don’t argue and just vote yes. Got it?

FYI: Anna is also my client and a very good friend.

The ‘Stros had a shutout Opening Day win last night. How many Opening Day shutout wins does the team now have?

The H-Town Mayor wants the PGA to move its annual tournament to Memorial Park. The Chron’s Brian Smith disagrees. I have to side with Smith on this one. Here is the beginning of Smith’s column from yesterday’s Chron:

I kept waiting for Houston’s mayor to suddenly reappear. Kick in the interview-room door, pry Russell Henley’s just-won PGA Shell Houston Open prize from his hands, and smash the glass trophy on the floor.

It was that kind of day at the Golf Club of Houston. And Mayor Sylvester Turner didn’t just take over a show clearly lacking big names on a rainy, gloomy Sunday. He proudly stole the spotlight and overshadowed all the professionals who play golf for a living.

“The city of Houston wants this tournament inside the city,” said Turner, speaking from the suburb of Humble and all of 18 miles from downtown Houston.

Just wait. There was more.

“I don’t think you can do things on the outskirts, outside the geographical limits of the city of Houston, and get the sort of benefits that would take place if things are done within the city,” Turner said.

And more.

“Can you imagine … to meet the PGA requirements, what a beautiful course that (Memorial Park) would be,” Turner said. “And Memorial Park is a destination park for people coming from all over the world, and certainly for people from the Houston area. Can you imagine what the attendance would be?”

In case you somehow missed it, Mayor Turner badly wants the PGA’s annual Houston Open to move from the burbs – where it’s been since 1975, first in The Woodlands, then Humble – to within the loop of the country’s fourth-largest city. Turner also stated that the Houston Golf Association is “very, very interested” in relocating the tournament to Memorial Park.

Misguided on Memorial

Which was interesting, because when the media tried to get HGA president/CEO Steven Timms to discuss Turner’s unexpected comments, all inquiring reporters received was a two-sentence statement.

“Houston Golf Association remains focused on securing a title sponsor for the Houston Open. We will share the news regarding our future home once plans are finalized and in place.”

Forget for a minute that Memorial Park hasn’t hosted the Houston Open since 1963, has “parking issues” and would require a major upgrade to become PGA ready. Ignore the fact that, contrary to the political grandstanding, Memorial Park is not a world destination for eager international tourists.

Here is the entire column: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/columnists/smith/article/Houston-Open-works-just-fine-in-suburbia-Mr-11045349.php.

Commentary thinks it would be too disruptive to the park and to the surrounding area if you ask me and go on ahead and ask me.

Commentary doesn’t have anything to say about the QB situation and the Texans.

There was some negative online buzz yesterday on the new HTX sign the team has in center field under the team logo. Dumb move if you ask me. We are HOU or H-Town, not HTX.

We had to park in the theater district and take the light rail to The Yard yesterday. It worked out OK.

Last night was our third Opening Day shutout win of course.

We won last night and that is all that matters.

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