How will HISD Prop 1 impact students and schools?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake this Election Day for voters in Houston ISD.

Proposition 1 is a controversial issue dubbed recapture -- rejected by voters in November -- that would allow the district to send money to the state to be redistributed.

It's back on the ballot, and this time around voters can say yes or no to a reduced amount.

Around 80 percent of students in HISD are economically disadvantaged, but because of rising property values, state law says the district is rich, or "property-wealthy."

"I don't think the law was designed this way," said HISD trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones. "We probably were never supposed to get to this point."

If HISD voters say yes on Proposition 1, the district would write a check to the state for it to redistribute. If they say no, the state takes commercial properties with the highest property value from HISD's tax base and plops its tax dollars in a poorer district.

Tax revenue from buildings like Chase Tower, Williams Tower, Greenway Plaza and The Galleria would be gone, just to name a few. They'd be taxed by Aldine ISD.

"Those particular districts will also then have the ability every year to raise their taxes if they're so inclined to do so," Skillern-Jones said of the districts that would be recipients of those "detached" buildings.

That's never happened because districts in recapture have opted to just write the check.

In November, voters said no to writing a $162 million check. This time around, a new rule dropped it to $77 million in year one. Most of the HISD trustees, including Rhonda Skillern-Jones, are for Prop 1.

"How do you replace an over 300,000-vote election with one where they're not even gonna reach 20,000? That's offensive to me," said trustee Jolanda Jones.
Jones said there's no way voters should believe sending that money is the best route.

"A perfect example of this is Austin, which is a much smaller district than us. Their first recapture payment was $20 million. Now this year's recapture payment is $406 million, and next year is $539 million."

"Severing the property is really using a sledgehammer to fix a pretty small problem. Whereas you write the check, it can vary from year to year," said State Representative Jim Murphy from west Houston.

HISD's latest projection is that it would pay around $500 million in 2020. Rep. Murphy said there's no good option until legislators change the law.

"If the property gets severed as a result of the election, everybody in HISD will have a tax increase," he said.

Early voting is over, but Election Day is Saturday, May 6.

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