FISD board approves tax increase

Automatic tax ratification election must be held within 90 days

The FISD board of trustees voted on Tuesday night to approve a tax increase. The decision triggers an automatic tax ratification election within 90 days.

Brian Higgins

The FISD board of trustees voted on Tuesday night to approve a tax increase. The decision triggers an automatic tax ratification election within 90 days.

The Frisco ISD board of trustees approved a tax increase Tuesday night that would bring in an extra $30.6 million in the budget for the next school year. But the vote is the first step as the move by the board triggers an automatic tax ratification election that must be held within 90 days.

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We feel that it’s time to go to our voters as surrounding districts have and see what they want from our school district and what do they value in the way of education”

— FISD school board president Anne McCausland

“We have unfortunately been in a position for a number of years where we have absorbed over $125 million worth of cuts,” school board president Anne McCausland said. “We’ve exhausted every option in regards to cutting revenue, or cutting expenditures and trying to boost revenue and we’ve reached a point where because of class sizes and teacher pay, we feel that it’s time to go to our voters as surrounding districts have and see what they want from our school district and what do they value in the way of education.”

With the population boom in the school district, the district is struggling with staffing it’s many schools.

“Our top priority has always been getting money into the classrooms, so that’s our top priority going forward,”  district chief financial officer Kimberly Pickens said to Wingspan earlier this spring. “It is just becoming increasingly more difficult to fund the classrooms with that loss of funding kind of looming over us. $30 million is a lot of money, so we definitely have to consider all our options. Under current law, there are only so many ways that a school district can generate revenue which limits what can be done. We get money from the state for every student enrolled in our school district. But unfortunately, student growth also means additional costs. So, that is not a way to generate additional funds.”

The decision to vote on and pass a tax rate increase was made only after many considerations.

“We waited as long as possible,” McCausland said. “We have always tried to be fiscally conservative and like I said, absorbed cuts for a number of years and we have put it off and put it off and unfortunately we were not able to put it off and absorb any more cuts.”

The call for a tax increase is a separate and distinct financial situation from the money used to fund school construction.

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Under current law, there are only so many ways that a school district can generate revenue which limits what can be done.”

— FISD chief financial officer Kimberly Pickens

“The additional revenue will be used to boost teacher salary, increase benefits and health insurance benefits for our teachers,” McCausland said. “Also we will be able to increase the number of teachers so that we can reduce our class waiver size that we were only second to Houston to, which is not something that I’m proud of.”

Although the school board voted to approve a tax increase, the ratification election will be held where voters will approve or reject it.

“Should the tax ratification not pass then we will have to take a hard look at the budget,” McCausland said. “There will be cuts and unfortunately I don’t see how those cuts will not affect class size, teacher salary and the other things we’re hoping to be able to be positively impacted by the TRE.”

Even though the 13 cent tax increase may trigger some opposition, McCausland says the election is the only way to secure revenue.

“It was pointed out in our meeting the most unfortunate thing is the tax increase that many of our voters see on their tax appraisal,” McCausland said. “Unfortunately none of it gets to stay in our district because of the way the state funding works. It all goes back to the state and gets sent to other districts, so the only way we have additional revenue is with approval of a tax ratification election.”

According to McCausland, the only way to avoid a tax increase is if the state’s funding system is changed.

“Really it would have to be a rework of the state’s funding formula of school districts,” McCausland said. “Another avenue was pointed out most recently in an article talked about tonight was really the unfair burden of property taxes put on residential taxpayers versus the large businesses and corporations in the state of Texas, it’s not a fair taxation system in regardsto tax appraisals and also protesting so unfortunately the burden of the tax seems to be mainly on residences here in the state of Texas.”

Some critics of the proposed tax increase say reducing the number of new schools being built would provide financial relief to the district, but McCausland says that goes against the district’s philosophy.

“It boils down to I guess a commitment and vision that was from our community back in the 90s,” McCausland said. “You know they spoke loud and clear to the board and said this is what we want in Frisco ISD, you know we support the smaller schools model allowing our kids more opportunities to get involved so this will be an opportunity for the community to say whether or not they choose to continue to support this I know they did with the 2014 bond package and then you know our community wants again us being asked to look at their vision and decide, do they want to choose to support the small schools model through the passage of the TRE.”