HISD Tax Rate Remains Lowest Among Harris County School Districts
Extra 20 percent homestead exemption benefits property owners
Houston ISD homeowners will continue to be taxed at the lowest rate among all 21 Harris County school districts after the Board of Education voted Thursday to leave the tax rate unchanged despite deep state budget cuts.
HISD this year lost $78 million in state funding and has eliminated more than 700 non-campus jobs over the past two years to partially offset the loss. Budget cuts have also resulted in HISD employing 300 fewer teachers this school year, or an average of one fewer teacher per campus. Next year, HISD anticipates losing $122 million in state funding.
The tax rate of $1.1567 per $100 of taxable value is the lowest in Harris County, where the average school property tax rate in 2010 was $1.3996. HISD homeowners are also among the few in Texas who receive a 20 percent optional homestead exemption. This exemption is in addition to the standard $15,000 exemption given to all Texas homeowners.
The owner of a home with an appraised value of $200,000 in a school district with HISD’s tax rate but no optional homestead exemption would pay $2,140 in property taxes. HISD’s decision to grant the optional homestead exemption reduces the bill on a home with the same value down to $1,677, a savings of $463.
The Board of Education also took the following actions Thursday.
- The Board approved the ASPIRE teacher performance-pay model for the 2011-2012 school year. The revised model seeks to reduce the total payout amount, which reached $42.8 million for 2009-2010 and went to more than 90 percent of eligible employees. By raising the performance standards to the proposed new levels, the total payout would have been no more than $26.9 million to 57 percent of employees.
- The Board agreed to seek waivers from the state’s elementary school minimum class-size requirement of 22 students per classroom. This year, HISD principals requested 1,048 such waivers, compared to 693 in 2010.
- The Board strengthened the code of ethics to prohibit, in most cases, communications on potential vendors between Board members and HISD staff and current or potential vendors. In addition, the Board voted to hire the Null-Lairson firm to conduct a third-party, independent audit of the district’s contract recommendation and awards process. The firm will be assisted by MGT of America and Susanne Mariga, CPA. The audit’s cost is not to exceed $87,500 and will be covered by districtwide funds.
- The Board voted to convey the original Rufus Cage Elementary School building to the City of Houston as part of an effort to preserve the more than 100 year-old structure in the 1400 block of Telephone Road. In return, HISD will receive a $100,000 credit to be used toward future property or right-of-way purchases from the city. The mission-styled structure was built in 1910 on the East side of Houston. It has been vacant for decades. In order to preserve the historical Rufus Cage building, deed restrictions will be included in the instrument of conveyance that would prevent the City or any future owners of the property from demolishing the building.