Friendswood ISD called for a tax ratification election to be held Sept. 10 after proposing a tax rate of $1.387 at its June 13 meeting.
Texas requires a TRE for Maintenance and Operations rates that exceed $1.04, officials said. FISD called for an M&O rate of $1.13. Overall, the proposed tax rate is 2 cents higher than the 2015-16 rate.
The increase is needed to balance the budget following district-wide teacher salary increases, officials said.
FISD Chief Financial Officer Connie Morgenroth said the raises in salary were necessary to keep up with surrounding districts.
“About a year ago, we were having a hard time recruiting [teachers] because we were so far behind—as much as $7,000 behind—what we could pay our teachers versus Alvin ISD and some of the other districts,” she said. “So we started benchmarking ourselves [against] Clear Creek, Alvin and Pearland [ISDs].”
According to 2015 data from the Public Education Management System, FISD received the lowest amount of funding among six surrounding districts. The district received about $9,400 in operating revenue per student and $6,894 in general fund revenue per student. Pearland ISD—the next lowest—received almost $12,700 in operating revenue per student and about $7,000 in general fund revenue per student.
“We know that we can’t [match] what [those districts] pay,” Morgenroth said. “But we were trying to get within a couple of thousand dollars. We tried to get within $1,500 of what they were paying.”
Morgenroth said the M&O increase would create about $2.5 million in revenue for the district. The projected additional revenue would cover the $1.8 million in teacher salary increases and set aside $690,000 for capital improvement projects.
Although the increase to the M&O rate is 9 cents, Morgenroth said refinancing some 2008 bonds allowed FISD to decrease the debt service rate to $0.257.
“[Refinancing] was a win for the district and for the taxpayers,” she said. “It helped to offset what we need on the M&O side to be able to give the teachers the raises, balance the budget and have some money for some capital improvements.”
The board of trustees unanimously approved a balanced budget July 18 for the 2016-17 school year. The budget uses the proposed tax rate of $1.397, however, officials created a secondary budget option in the event the rate is rejected.
“If this [TRE] fails, we’re going to have a $2.5 million deficit,” Morgenroth said. “[Trustees] may decide not to do the $690,000 worth of capital improvement projects, but [FISD would] still have a $1.9 or $1.8 million deficit. You can [operate like] that for a year. You could maybe do it two years and hope that maybe the state comes in to help out, but you can’t sustain that.”