The City of Georgetown is the fifth fastest growing city in the United States with a population over 50,000 and the 2nd safest city of our size in Texas. We are perennially ranked as one of the top places to retire in the country. Our citizens expect this trend to continue. As such, our ability to respond to challenges associated with growth, including funding public safety, improving mobility, administering predictable land use and annexation plans, and fostering thoughtful economic development, is paramount.
Georgetown has a long-standing tradition of providing our citizens with high-levels of service, while ensuring the city remains affordable for those who choose to live here. In fact, a 2016 citizen survey showed that almost 80% of Georgetown residents believe the value of the city taxes paid is either good or excellent. You read that right. Eight in ten respondents said they received good value for their city taxes.
Additionally, over 80% of residents feel the city provides services that are either good or excellent. This rating is higher than all other levels of government. The same survey showed that only 62% of Georgetown resident felt State services were either good or excellent.
Several items on the Governor’s special session call could severely limit Georgetown’s ability to provide core services to the level and manner in which our citizens have come to expect. These initiatives limit Georgetown’s ability to maintain our standards of safety, respond to increasing demands on our resources, and proactively encourage quality development.
This focus on city property tax limits is a legislative sleight of hand. The real issue facing Texas is how the state funds public schools. Per the Texas Constitution, a “general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”
It is important to note that in Georgetown, city-related property taxes only account for 18% of the total property tax bill. Williamson County accounts for 21%. Any small savings realized by property tax caps will be overshadowed by school districts needing to increase their tax rates to cover for dwindling resources for public education from the State. Had the originally proposed tax cap of 5% been in place in 2017, Georgetown voters would have saved $10 on their city-tax bill, but their school tax bill would have still increased $290.
Since 2012, state funding of public education has decreased as a percentage of overall education funding. In 2012, the State accounted for 45.9% of total education funding. By 2019, state funding is projected to be just 37.9%. Further, G.I.S.D. continually budgets more dollars for recapture payments. In 2017, $3.5M was budgeted to go to the state due to the “Robin Hood” plan. That number is expected to increase over 170% to almost $9.5 million in 2018.
If you like where you live and think we should educate our children, I would ask that you call your state representative and ask for two things. First, request their support for maintaining local control. Second, please encourage them to refocus their efforts on the state’s real challenge, school finance.