The Leander ISD board of trustees officially called a voter-approval tax rate election, or VATRE, for the November election at its Aug. 18 meeting.

A VATRE is an election that requires school districts to seek voter approval to raise its maintenance and operations tax rate above a rate set by state law.

Leander ISD’s VATRE would increase the maintenance and operations, or M&O, tax rate while lowering the tax rate for interest and sinking, or I&S—essentially providing the district with more funds for operations.

The I&S tax rate funds allow the district to complete major projects and build facilities, while the M&O primarily funds salaries, insurance and benefits for employees.

If approved, the VATRE could provide LISD at least $20 million in revenue, which would fund staff pay increases. In the event that the VATRE fails in November, LISD would be facing a $35 million budget deficit.

The VATRE was approved by a 5-1 vote, with Trustee Aaron Johnson voting against the election and Trustee Elexis Grimes absent from the meeting.

In May, Johnson voted against compensation increases because the board did not have the funds to support the raises at the time of approval, he said. The funding to support pay increases would be based on the approval of voters.

“In my opinion, in the current climate, that is not a wise or prudent approach, and I have tried to message that for some time,” he said at the Aug.18 meeting. “So, that will be the reason why I will be a no vote on the related issues tonight.”

The other present trustees, who were also in favor of the pay increases in May, were in support of the VATRE election, despite the possible risks.

“Yes, it’s a gamble, and I think right now we made that gamble and we’re gambling on our educators; we’re gambling on our community,” Trustee Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia said at the meeting. “We’re gambling for this community to come together and support this district that we love.”

The VATRE will be held Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 4.

“This is being set up to where we have to go to VATRE and ask our community for money, because we are not getting properly funded by the state,” Trustee Anna Smith said at the meeting. “I’m not sticking anybody on anybody; what I’m asking our community to do is to advocate for public education in Texas, because if we don’t advocate for public education in Texas, then what are we doing here?”

In addition to the VATRE, five board seats will be up for election. The board of trustees also approved an attendance credit election, or ACE, which would ask voters to enable LISD to continue to make mandatory recapture payments, Chief Financial Official Elaine Cogburn said.

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