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.”
All voting will take place at the former Friendswood Junior High School, 402 Laurel Road, Friendswood.
Aug. 24-Sept. 2 from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 from 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sept. 10 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.