Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Clements High School, not Dulles High School, would be rebuilt using 2022 bond funds.

Fort Bend ISD is considering a tax rate election to address its financial woes while evaluating the need of a bond for the district’s capital needs. The district is contemplating up to an $0.11 Voter-Approved Tax Ratification Election alongside a proposed more than $1.1 billion bond in the upcoming Nov. 8 election, though both would require to be called by the board of trustees during its Aug. 22 meeting, according to district documents. Voters would then need to approve each initiative in November before either went into effect.

According to a July 25 presentation from district officials, FBISD is considering a VATRE after the board of trustees unanimously approved the district’s $768 million budget for the 2022-23 year during its June 20 meeting. Included in that budget was a 2%-3% salary increase for teachers and other staff and a $47 million budget shortfall that was offset using the district’s existing reserve and $27 million in one-time federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.

"A lot of factors impact our budget," FBISD Deputy Superintendent Steve Bassett said during the meeting. "Property value growth, inflation, lower student growth. We adopted a budget that had a $47 million deficit if you're not counting using ESSER funds."

One of the biggest factors contributing to the current deficit was the 2021-22 budget, which had to be offset with $19 million in fund balance and ESSER funds. In that budget cycle, teachers received a 6% pay bump on average, while nonteaching staff received a 4% bump. Those compensation adjustments were worth $32.4 million in that year alone, according to district officials.

Lower-than-expected enrollment has also contributed, with $26 million of the total deficit in the 2022-23 budget attributed solely to an enrollment shortage. Enrollment projections from demographic firm Population and Survey Analysts show that in 2022, FBISD was below projections by about 2,853 students, at 77,545 versus a projected 80,398. These factors have contributed to the need by the district to continue reviewing all positions vacated through attrition, contemplating cutting programs, attracting students back from charter schools and homeschooling, and increasing recurring revenue, such as through the passage of a VATRE, district officials said.

An $0.11 tax rate increase would be the highest the district could increase its tax rate, according to the district’s July 25 finance report. That new rate, at $1.2646 per $100 of assessed value, would bring in an additional $62.6 million in revenue to the district. For residents with a property with an average taxable value of $291,266, the new rate would raise their annual tax bill by $337, according to the financial report.

"In the upcoming year, if a VATRE was done for the full $0.11, that would increase our tax rate to $1.26 and some change," said Bryan Guinn, FBISD finance director during the meeting. "That tax rate is actually slightly less than what our tax rate was in 2020. It is important to point out that although our residents would pay more because of property value growth, the tax rate is still relatively lower than what it was previously."

A bond, meanwhile—if called by the board of trustees, may target $505 million in major building projects, such as rebuilds of Clements High School, Briargate Elementary School and Mission Bend Elementary School, in addition to $558.9 million in addressing facility deficiencies and life cycle needs. The district is also targeting $5.6 million in safety and security upgrades, $6.7 million in transportation updates, $100 million in technology updates and $3.2 million in property acquisition.