AUSTIN - In 2006, Texas lawmakers rolled back school tax rates for maintenance and operations by one-third over the next two years in an initiative that was to provide $7 billion in annual property tax relief.

A study released Aug. 14 by Texas Taxpayer and Research Association shows how Texas taxpayers actually did get $7 billion in property tax relief.

The study, Property Tax Relief: The $7 Billion Reality, by the non- profit non-partisan association’s research arm, concludes that “The average Texans’ property tax bill may not be lower today than it was two years ago, but it is unmistakably much, much lower than it would have been.”

The study points out that relief was made possible by a swap that included “a complete restructuring (and increase) of the state’s business tax, an increase in the state’s cigarette tax, and a commitment of surplus funds in the State Treasury sufficient to provide an overall net tax cut of roughly $2.5 billion a year.”

The eight-page report can be accessed at www.ttara.org.

TXDOT signals

consolidation plan

The Texas Department of Transportation says it is considering the creation of four regional centers to house support functions presently located in 25 districts across Texas.

“The consolidation of support functions could create a more efficient working environment and generate a cost savings estimated at $35 million,” said TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz.

Sites for the regional centers would be Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Lubbock.

Each would support the district design, construction and maintenance operations, with districts aligned into the support centers based on regional proximity.

Saenz said restructuring would not result in a reduction of services at the district level.

“TxDOT would not cut services to the public. Our goal is to provide services in a way that is smarter and less expensive.

“Our local offices would continue to operate, concentrating on our core business functions of construction, design and maintenance,” he said.

DPS promotes online renewal

The Texas Department of Public Safety reminds Texas residents they can renew their driver’s license “without leaving the comfort of your computer” by going to the Internet site www.TexasOnline.com.

Driver’s license and identification card holders are required by law to renew their license and ID card every six years. State law also requires that they change the address on their license or ID card within 30 days of moving to another residence.

The DPS has offered eligible individuals the option of renewing their license or ID card over the Internet since 2001. Individuals are eligible to renew online as long as they are 18 years of age, within one year of the license or identification card expiring and did not renew online, by mail or telephone at their last renewal.

Ineligible driver’s license and ID card holders include those who have an expired, revoked, or suspended license or ID card, and individuals who possess a provisional driver’s license or a commercial driver’s license.

The online change of address service fee is $11, but if a license holder chooses to renew at the same time as changing the address, the total charge is $25.

Judge allows dropout funding

State District Judge Stephen Yelenosky rejected the Texas State Teachers Association’s lawsuit to stop state funds from going to dropout recovery programs run by private schools.

TSTA argued that Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott did not have authority to award grants allowing $6 million in state funds to be awarded to private schools.200th missing predator arrested

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Aug. 14 announced his office’s

Fugitive Unit reached a milestone 200th Operation Missing Predator

arrest on Aug. 13.

Since May 2005, the Fugitive Unit has located and arrested convicted sex offenders who fail to register with authorities. State, federal and local authorities work together to make it happen.

Estimate: $54 million in savings

Before the annual Texas Sales Tax Holiday, Aug. 15-17, Texas

Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs estimated Texans would save $54 million, taking advantage of no state sales tax on clothes, shoes and a list of other items.