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Tarrant County Judge Is Mad, And He's Not Going To Take It Any More From Legislators

Rodger Mallison/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
County Judge Glen Whitley presides over a 2016 Commissioners Court meeting.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley is angry.

The county's top elected official ignited a political firestorm a week ago when he said the state is refusing to pay what it should for public education, and he accused legislators of blaming local officials for raising property taxes.

That led to a sharp response from the county's state senators, accusing him of telling a "bold-faced lie."

“I’ll stand by the numbers and stand by what I said,” Whitley said.

Texas Senate Delegation From Tarrant County Statement by KERANews on Scribd

Interview Highlights: Glen Whitley

On why he believes the state is forcing schools to raise taxes:

"If you look at how public education is funded in the state of Texas, it's funded by three sources. Ten percent is funded by the federal government. The rest is split between state and local property taxes. It used to be the state funded two-thirds of that difference and local taxpayers funded one-third. Over the last decade, [the state] went from being a 50-50 partner to one-third. That has created a heavy burden on our local property taxes. 

"Two years ago at the end of 2015, the state comptroller came to the Tarrant County Appraisal District and said, 'Your values are too low. You have two years to get them up or we're going to begin penalizing the school districts' because of that [school funding] formula."

On whether his comments will hurt his ability to work with Austin:

"For the last 10 years, every legislative session, we've tried to sit down and say, 'Don't handcuff us.' Don't take the ability of a local elected official to make local decisions. We've asked them to stop with the unfunded mandates. The speaker has helped tremendously in keeping the other side as far handcuffing our hands. Now that [House Speaker Joe Straus] is gone, [Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is] already declaring victory and that his No. 1 priority is fixing property taxes.

"If they're going to do that, they're going to have to recommit to the historic levels that they funded public education in the past. I would love for them to get back to doing two-thirds. I'd just love for them to get back to where they're doing 50 percent. While [lawmakers] will say 'property tax relief,' it's not relief. They're simply saying, 'We're going to curb the growth.' That's not relief."

On the changes in the political landscape in his public career:

"I was elected to the school board at Hurst-Euless-Bedford in 1993 right as Robin Hood was being put upon us. What I have seen in that time, from where we were truly collaborating and working in the Legislature, to where beginning in around the 2006 and 2007 era we began to look a lot like Washington: gridlock, pointing fingers and not sitting down and collaborating to address the problems. I mean, this is very out of character [for me]. I know it sounds like all I'm doing is criticizing them. The laws passed by D.C. and also by the state, we have to implement them.  I think we deserve being treated as a partner and not pointed to and blamed for everything they perceive is wrong with the state." 

Glen Whitley's State of the County Presentation by KERANews on Scribd

Photo credit: Rodger Mallison, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.