Friday, June 21, 2024

Northwest ISD considering tax rate election to combat school funding crisis

Northwest ISD announced last week that it is currently analyzing a potential Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE) to supplement the district’s funding.

“As school districts across the state feel the effects of the Texas school funding crisis,” NISD is considering calling a VATRE. “If approved (by voters), these funds would be used to balance the district budget to protect class size ratios and student programs as well as continue to provide teacher and staff raises … the district would generate an estimated $15 million in additional funding that is not subject to recapture. This means all additional funds raised would stay within Northwest ISD, instead of a portion being sent to the state’s general fund.”

In a recent news release, NISD said school districts across Texas are facing “significant budget shortfalls because of a lack of action from state leaders to increase public education funding despite significant inflation.” Northwest ISD expects to adopt a deficit budget of $14 million, and others expect much more significant deficits.

“State leaders have approved $4 billion in funding increases to Texas schools but have refused to provide it despite the state’s $33 billion budget surplus, some of which comes from recapture payments sent by school districts,” NISD said in a statement. “Gov. Greg Abbott has remained firm in his stance that he will not approve additional funding for schools unless any such legislation includes his additional legislative priorities.”

Northwest ISD will conduct an efficiency audit this summer to prove it uses taxpayer dollars wisely. At the board’s Aug. 13 meeting, the district plans to present trustees with an option to vote to call a VATRE for the November ballot. If an election is called by trustees and approved by voters, the maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate would increase by 3 cents from the proposed 2024-2025 rate of $0.6669 to $0.6969. This represents an annual tax increase of $120 per year to a home assessed at $500,000 with a homestead exemption on file, according to the district.

“By generating $15 million this year, and more each year going forward, Northwest ISD can continue to provide current class sizes and student programs while funding teacher and staff raises,” the district said in a statement. “As the district continues its exponential growth, the new funding would increase per year to benefit student programs and competitive salaries. Without additional funding, Northwest ISD will face the same circumstances neighboring districts have: increasing class sizes, cutting student programs and reducing overall staff – including both teachers and non-teaching staff alike.”

No district that borders Northwest ISD has a lower M&O tax rate than its current 2023-2024 rate of $0.6692 per $100 of taxable property, the district’s lowest M&O tax rate in more than 30 years. In Texas, a school district’s M&O tax rate funds day-to-day operations, such as salaries, student programs and utilities.

“Northwest ISD continues to work to maintain or reduce class sizes, which provides a stronger learning environment for students,” the district said. “Northwest ISD also plans to expand its student programs, such as award-winning career and technical education programs, to prepare students for success after high school, whether in college or the workforce. A lack of funding would reverse both these plans.”

To learn more about the potential VATRE and Northwest ISD’s tax rate, click here.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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