Activists narrowly head off HCDE stealth tax increase effort

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  • Harris County Department of Education votes against small tax hike after strong opposition – Miya Shay, KTRK-13 News

    Whenever you talk about homes and their property taxes, emotions run high. At the Harris County Department of Education, board member Jim Henley was angry.

    “I want to give a quality of education to our students, and I want to go against the grain of all that’s been happening,” Henley said.

    Henley was among the board members who supported a small tax rate increase from the current rate of .006581 to .006804 per hundred-dollar valuation.


    “What your tax money does is leverages dollars for school districts. That’s why the Harris County Department of Education is a viable entity today,” board president Angie Chestnut said.

    Anti-tax advocate Barry Klein was determined to win this battle. After several speakers, and an hour of debate, the board voted 4-3 to not change the tax rate.

  • Department of Education leaves tax rate the same – Mike Morris, Chron Houston Politics

    HCDE board member Roy Morales had said the district’s goal in considering raising the rate was to collect the same amount of money with the new rates as it had with the old ones. Because property values have fallen, Morales had said, that meant the rate had to go up to collect the same revenue.

    A number of small-government advocates spoke at the meeting against the proposed increase. Houston Property Rights Association president Barry Klein, one such attendee, credited county Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners with convincing the board to leave the rate untouched.

    Sumners described his role as offering “friendly persuasion” against a tax hike. He said his success in that effort was simply a matter of presenting the data.

    “With the latest numbers, they didn’t need to raise the rate at all to get the budgeted amount,” he said. In other words, the value of all county properties is such that the district still will bring in about $18 million in revenue with the same tax rate in place.

This stealth tax increase would probably have sailed right on through if not for the diligence of Barry Klein and the other activists who snapped to the fact that the Harris County Department of Education scheduled its “workshop” on the tax increase on the very same day it intended to vote on said tax increase.

It’s probably worth looking at some of the various players quoted in these two stories. From the bottom up:

1) There’s Roy Morales, alleged conservative who nonetheless seemed to be making the case — in a building named for Ronald Reagan no less! — to raise taxes. A true conservative ought to be making the case to disband this unneeded remnant of a different time, or at least to hold the line on taxes. Then there are “conservatives” like Roy Morales who are known to loan their political campaigns money at usurious interest rates. Make of all of this what you will.

2) There’s Angie Chesnut (KTRK’s story was not only slanted, but also got the name wrong), whose board bio indicates she owns a private “curriculum development and consulting firm.” We imagine she has some interest indeed in leveraging dollars for school districts (and perhaps just a few for herself? Perhaps)!


3) There’s Jim Henley, a name we hadn’t really considered since he was running around becoming a minor fringe-left celebrity in his quixotic challenge to conservative Rep. John Culberson some years ago (he claimed all of 38% of the vote). Same old tax-and-spender, it would seem. And angry still, too!

We can’t come up with good reasons the Harris County Department of Education (with its bloated non-education staff) even exists — and exists to the tune of draining Harris County taxpayers of $18 million per year. The folks at Texas Trash Talk make a pretty good case for eliminating the entity. We encourage readers to check them out (and we thank them for their part in heading off this stealth tax increase effort).

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Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX