Spring ISD’s board of trustees requested additional information on March 19 for the board's next meeting about a possible voter-approval tax rate election ballot initiative, or VATRE, that would be held in November if called.

The full story

SISD Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks presented information on a potential VATRE, which would raise the district’s maintenance and operations tax rate by $0.03 if approved by voters in November. If a board of trustees approves a tax rate above the voter-approval tax rate—a maintenance and operations rate of $0.6692—voters then must consider the tax rate in an election, according to Westbrook’s presentation.

The additional $0.03 to the district’s M&O rate from an approved VATRE would generate an estimated additional $10 million in recurring revenue, Westbrooks said.

“Most districts have already taken full advantage of the VATRE, several of them in our Houston area were approved on this past November election,” Westbrooks said. “It is recurring revenue, which is hard to come by these days; recurring revenue that we could depend on [at] both the local level and the state level.”

SISD trustees have not yet considered tax rates for fiscal year 2024-25 and typically approve annual tax rates in September. SISD’s total tax rate of $1.1092 per $100 valuation for FY 2023-24 is made up of:
  • An M&O tax rate of $0.6692 per $100 valuation
  • An interest and sinking tax rate of $0.44 per $100 valuation
The M&O rate funds SISD’s general fund budget, while the I&S rate funds debt service from bonds, as previously reported by Community Impact.

What’s next

According to Westbrook’s presentation, to hold a VATRE on the Nov. 5 ballot, SISD trustees must:
  • Select an auditor to complete a required efficiency audit by July 5
  • Order the VATRE by Aug. 19
Multiple trustees expressed interest in also conducting a community survey before deciding whether to pursue a VATRE.

“It seems to me like we sort of jump in the water and sink or swim with the [VATRE] election, instead of having some sort of idea whether the community has an appetite for this,” board Vice President Winford Adams Jr. said.

Westbrooks said she will return with the cost of conducting a community survey at the board’s April meeting.

The context

SISD leaders expect to make $12 million in budget cuts for the FY 2024-25 budget as the district faces an estimated $25 million shortfall, as previously reported by Community Impact. On Feb. 8, Westbrooks said the district’s projected budget shortfall is being caused by:
  • High inflation rates
  • Raises the district awarded employees in previous fiscal years
  • Lowered rates of student enrollment and average daily attendance caused by the coronavirus pandemic
  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund federal funding expiring on Sept. 30