Fort Bend ISD officials launched a full page on their website and held town halls as part of the district’s efforts to educate the public on the need for Proposition A, the voter-approval tax rate election ballot initiative, known as a VATRE.

If approved, Proposition A would raise the district tax rate by $0.04 per $100 valuation, resulting in a rate of $0.9892 per $100 valuation for fiscal year 2023-24.

What’s happening?

On Oct. 2, FBISD board members heard the result of a third-party financial efficiency audit that revealed the district’s spending is in line with peer districts in the region and state, as previously reported by Community Impact.

Despite revenue being added by recent bond approvals, that money is earmarked for other infrastructure projects, such as new schools and upkeep of existing schools.

But to pay for teacher raises and meet the unfunded House Bill 3 state mandate of hiring a uniformed officer at every campus, a tax increase is necessary to provide additional revenue for those expenditures, Deputy Superintendent Steven Bassett said.

What they’re saying

Basset explained the district has over 100 teaching vacancies, and if the administration is not able to offer raises to teachers, or the special legislative session does not yield more funding, FBISD could be faced with many more teacher vacancies next year.

“And so I understand [when] people say that, ‘You guys just had a bond $1.26 billion. Why are you coming back?’ We're coming back because our teacher pay is low compared to the peers around us. ... We have a gap of $3,000 per teacher, so that's a tough way to do business,” Bassett said. “You know, it's a people business.”

In other news

The district received criticism from state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, regarding the administration’s efforts to encourage their employees to vote in this election cycle.

In a tweet, he claimed that by offering nonmonetary incentives, such as “wear blue jeans” days for employees who voted, that the district was in violation of state law.

The district responded in a statement last week after the tweet:

“FBISD adheres to the highest standards of integrity. It is not a violation of law to encourage voting, a cornerstone act of American civic participation that is embedded in our society. Nonetheless, so that there is absolutely no confusion or misunderstanding whatsoever, we have pivoted away from encouraging the act of voting through nonmonetary incentives.”