As increased costs of living squeeze the pocketbooks of area educators, local school districts are seeking alternative means of funding raises for some staff and teachers.

What's happening

Seeking a solution to budgetary restrictions limiting their ability to raise teacher compensation in a meaningful way, district officials in Pflugerville and Round Rock ISDs called voter-approved tax rate elections in August.

The tax rate elections represent a localized solution to a widespread problem: increases in recapture payments due to the state and other budgetary pressures limit school districts’ abilities to provide raises to teachers that keep pace with inflation. In the case of RRISD, this is the first VATRE called by the district. At PfISD, it is the third consecutive year the district has used a tax rate election to generate additional tax revenue.

Early voting for the Nov. 7 election will run from Oct. 23-Nov. 3.

Terms to know
  • Voter-approved tax rate election: When school boards and other taxing entities want to raise their tax rate beyond the voter-approval rate, a VATRE must be called. Tax rate elections put the decision to raise taxes and generate increased property tax revenue in the hands of constituents.
  • Recapture: This funding mechanism is utilized by the Texas Education Agency to share excess local property tax revenues with other school districts. Tax revenue generated at the local level exceeding what the district is allowed to keep based on a two-tier formula is sent back to the state.
What they’re saying

Without the higher rate, RRISD Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez said the district would have to make difficult decisions about staffing, class sizes, electives available to students, and athletic and fine arts programs, among others.

“As you know, 85% of our budget is in people,” Azaiez said. “We’re really talking about eliminating positions. We need 12 million more dollars.”

Ahead of the vote to call the VATRE in August, both RRISD Places 2 and 7 trustees Mary Bone and Danielle Weston shared concerns around the dependence of the additional compensation increases on the tax rate election. Given current economic conditions, Weston called for an efficiency audit to find different means of funding them.

"I'm morally opposed to strong-arming teachers into voting for their pay raises," Bone said.

In PfISD, Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Land said the district will need to work on communicating with voters, as the proposed tax rate in its VATRE is a lower tax rate that will result in overall lower property tax revenue, but will require language stating it to be an increase.

“It’s a conundrum because the language that is required by statute on the ballot talks about an increase," Land said. "However, property taxes and the tax collections are actually decreasing.”