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State Revenue Outlook
Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s revenue estimate for the 2020-2121 biennium is $119.1 billion in general revenue funds; an increase of about 8% over the last biennium. However, Hegar mentioned falling oil prices last month, and increased uncertainty in the U.S. economy (tariffs, etc.) and international financial markets as areas of concern despite the increase, “We remain cautiously optimistic but recognize we’re unlikely to see continued revenue growth at the unusually strong rates we’ve seen in recent months.”
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
TSLAC submitted a $68.5 million budget request for the biennium, and a $37.9 million request for additional exceptional items. The majority of the exceptional item request addresses creating additional storage capacity so that TSLAC can continue to accept and store state and local records, and archival materials. TLA endorsed the state library’s budget request, including all exceptional items. Our priority, however, is exceptional item #4 which requests $4.2 million to leverage state buying power to provide access to e-book materials for public, K-12, and academic library users.
TLA President Jennifer LaBoon (Fort Worth ISD) testified at the Senate Finance hearing in support of TSLAC’s budget. Cindy Buchanan (Aldine ISD) and Linda Stevens (Harris County Public Library) testified at the House Appropriations Article I Subcommittee hearing in support of TSLAC’s budget.
The e-book exceptional item is in Article XI in both the House and Senate budget bills. TLA will reach out to conference committee members once they are appointed to ask that the item be included in the final budget.
Lawmakers passed a $250.7 billion two-year budget, an increase of almost 16% over the last biennial budget. The final budget includes the state library’s request for $68 million to fund current services plus a few exceptional item requests (see below for details). It also includes funding for an Open Educational Resources (OER) repository and grant program at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
HB 1 includes the state library’s request for $68 million to fund current services plus a few exceptional item requests. The budget conference committee adopted TSLAC exceptional item requests for targeted salary increases for staff ($400,000) and a new agency general counsel ($240,294). The TSLAC request for $4,400,000 to retrofit space in a state-owned building in Austin for a short-term solution for records storage was approved in the Supplemental Appropriations Bill. The TSLAC request for $26.4 million to expand the State Records Center was not approved. The Senate adopted a rider “requiring the agency to study alternative records storage sites outside the downtown Austin area.” That study is due to the Legislature by December 1, 2019.
The General Appropriations Act also did not include funding for the exceptional item requests for cybersecurity upgrades, TexShare/TexQuest ebooks, or a proposed outreach project. The final version of the budget did, however, contain riders appropriating a total of $2,650,000 for library construction projects in Arlington and the Rio Grande Valley which had not been requested by TSLAC. Sent to the Governor.
School Funding and SB 3
The Senate budget includes approximately $7 billion and the House budget includes around $10 billion in additional funding for schools. SB 3, by Senator Jane Nelson, provides for a $5000 raise for all full-time classroom teachers. The estimated $3.7 billion price tag for this raise is included in the additional $7 billion proposed in the Senate version of the budget. The House leaves how the additional $10 billion is to be spent up to the districts.
While there have been other bills introduced that do include raises for librarians, counselors and nurses in addition to classroom teachers, the fact that SB 3 was filed by Senator Nelson, the chair of Senate Finance indicates that this will most likely be the bill that receives the most attention and debate.
TLA sent letters to Senator Nelson, Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen strongly opposing SB 3 as currently written because it does not include school librarians in the salary increase, and asking that any legislation providing salary increases include school librarians. TLA letter opposing SB 3
SB 3 was been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. TLA encouraged school librarians to contact members of that committee, especially if they live or work in one of the members’ districts, to express our opposition to SB 3 as written and ask that the legislation be expanded to include school librarians.
Senators’ Contact Information (note: all Senate email addresses follow this format – firstname.lastname@example.org)
TLA and TASL’s advocacy effort was successful! Senator Nelson offered an amendment to the bill adding school librarians. The amendment and the final bill were unanimously approved. The Senate passed the bill and it has been referred to the House Public Education Committee.
Additional Resources – Pay Raise
Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL) members Nancy Jo Lambert, and Brandi Rosales developed the following sample messages and talking points to use with legislators, teachers and other educators, and family, friends and parents.
The Senate and House had different priorities and plans which were negotiated by a conference committee. The final version of the school finance reform bill, HB 3 includes money for free, full-day pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds, creates a more complex method of funding the cost of educating low-income students, pays school districts that want to offer merit pay programs for teachers, and creates a permanent state fund to lower school district tax rates.
Base funding per student increases from $5,140 to $6,160. The compromise on raises mandates that a portion of the additional per student funding districts receive must be spent on raises and benefits for teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors. Sent to the Governor.
The House took a different approach than the Senate, providing funds to districts to offer raises to all employees and the conference committee on HB 3 followed that approach. SB 3 still is a tremendous victory for school librarians as the Texas Senate officially recognized that school librarians are teachers
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB)
As part of its budget request, THECB included two exceptional items addressing Open Educational Resources – $200,000 over the biennium to fund additional grants to develop OER course materials; and $250,000 over the biennium to fund development and maintenance of an OER repository using the OER Commons platform. The final budget includes funding for these OER items.
SB 2/HB 2 – Property Tax Reform
SB 2, and HB 2 which is identical, lowers the rollback rate to 2.5% from the current 8% for all taxing units with more than $15 million in combined property and sales tax revenue. If local governments want to exceed that cap to generate more revenue, they will need to have an election and ask voters. For local governments, local leaders say the cap will stifle their ability to adequately fund police, fire fighters and other essential public services, including public libraries. SB 2, ironically, does not completely reduce tax bills for property owners – rather it would slow the speed at which they increase year over year. SB 2 does not address tax compression of school property taxes, which are expected to be addressed in a separate bill.
The bill was referred to the Senate Property Tax Committee chaired by Senator Paul Bettencourt. A hearing was held February 6 at which city and county leaders argued that the bill would seriously hamstring their ability to budget for necessary services. Despite that, the committee approved the bill on February 11.
The bill was amended to increase the rollback rate to 3.5%, and passed the full Senate in April. After conference committee. the final bill requires cities, counties and other taxing units to receive voter approval before raising 3.5% more property tax revenue than the previous year. Sent to Governor
TLA submitted a letter outlining our concerns regarding the impact this will have on public library funding.
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