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One Proposition Fails Tuesday, But Voters Overwhelmingly Embrace Property Tax Break

A constitutional amendment that will lower school district property tax rates was approved by more than 80 percent of voters. Here's why that worries some education advocates.
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Bethany Erickson

Voters on Tuesday approved all but one of the 14 Texas constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Texas adopted its constitution in 1876. Roughly 714 amendments have been proposed since 1879; voters rejected only 180. It is rare for a constitutional amendment to fail. The last time was in 2019, when voters turned down a proposed amendment allowing municipal court judges to work for several cities or towns simultaneously.

This time, another proposition related to the state judicial system failed. Proposition 13 would have increased the minimum retirement age for state judges by five years and the mandatory retirement age for judges by four years to 79. It failed 62.69 percent to 37.31 percent.

Measures that would reform property taxes, provide tax breaks for childcare facilities and biomedical equipment manufacturers, ban so-called “wealth taxes,” create funds for new water and parks infrastructure, and others passed handily. An amendment to create a $1 billion fund to expand the state park system passed with 76 percent of the vote. A cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers captured almost 84 percent of the vote. (You can see the complete list of propositions here.)

Proposition 4, which provided homeowners a massive property tax break, was approved by 83 percent of voters. The amendment is designed to reduce property tax bills by compressing school district maintenance and operation property tax rates by 10.7 cents per $100 valuation. It will also distribute $12 billion in state funds to districts to offset the loss in revenue. (Maintenance and operation tax revenue pays for things like teacher salaries and building maintenance.) It will also increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000.

While this is welcome news to most homeowners, the decision also comes at a critical time for public school districts. Lawmakers gaveled in for their fourth special session in Austin on Tuesday and have still not addressed the base funding for schools. 

Some education advocates are carefully watching the reduction in property tax revenue from Proposition 4 as well as Proposition 10’s elimination of the property tax on equipment and inventory belonging to biomedical companies. Gov. Greg Abbott has already ordered lawmakers to return to Austin for a fourth special session. The latest school funding bill would increase the basic per-student allotment from $6,160 to $6,700. It would also fund education savings accounts (an ESA) that would pay parents $10,500 per student who attend private school. It attempts to create a tiered system of priority groups who would be eligible for ESAs based on criteria like disabilities and income.

Abbott has insisted he will not sign any bill without an ESA. Opponents of vouchers and ESAs, which include most Democrats and many rural Republican lawmakers, say they won’t pass a bill that includes such provisions. This impasse puts school funding and teacher raises in jeopardy of another delay.

Some other interesting Election Day notes:

House District 2, where Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) resigned and was expelled from the House during the regular legislative session for having sex with a 19-year-old intern to whom he provided alcohol, will be headed to a runoff. Six candidates were vying for that seat in the special election. Brent Money, who was endorsed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and backed by the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, and Jill Dutton, supported by House Speaker Dade Phelan’s allies, were the final two standing. Its outcome will provide an early look at whether Paxton will find support among voters after he announced plans to support opponents to anyone who opposed him during his impeachment trial.

With the failure of Proposition 13, several noteworthy judges will be forced to retire during their next terms. Those include Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann, and Court of Criminal Appeals justices Sharon Keller, Barbara Hervey, Bert Richardson, and Scott Walker. 

Brad Benson, a Granbury City Council candidatewas arrested Monday on two counts of possession of child pornography. He came within 16 votes of making a runoff election for his seat.

Also in Granbury, incumbent Mike Moore defeated challengers Rhonda Rogers Williams and Jessica Wark for his Granbury ISD school board seat. Williams was endorsed by former Hood County Republican chair Nate Criswell and Monica Brown, who filed a criminal complaint against Granbury ISD after a review committee returned books she found objectionable to library shelves. Alejandra Munoz was endorsed by Criswell and Brown but lost to Nancy Alana.

Prosper ISD will not be getting another fancy new football stadium. Fifty-four percent of voters rejected the $94 million stadium. They did approve the other three bond items, which will allow the district to take out debt to build new schools, upgrade technology, and add a performing arts center.

Dallas County had an 11.94 percent turnout, with a total of 168,659 ballots. More than half of those, 104,695, were cast on Tuesday. Statewide, 7.11 percent of the state’s 17.7 million voters turned out on Election Day.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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