Dallas ISD approves putting tax increase on Nov. ballot

The Dallas ISD School Board approved Thursday night to put a tax increase to pay for school improvements on the November ballot.

The 13-cent increase would add about $286 a year to the taxes for a $275,000 home. It would bring in an additional $126 million a year for the district, and there is no expiration date. That adds up to $700 for each DISD student.

The superintendent has tried for three years to get the school board on board to put this issue on the ballot. This year, he got that support and the support of a lot of parents who showed up at the vote.

Every trustee, except one, voted for the tax ratification election arguing that Dallas needs to invest in its public schools.

At the school board meeting Thursday night, trustees made their cases to put that increase on the November ballot, giving voters the power to make the final decision.

"We've seen a lot of academic improvement in the Dallas Independent School District, but all of it has cost us new money,” said DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “Without it, we'll be okay for this year. But what this plan does is gives us a revenue stream for the next five years."

Only one trustee, Joyce Foreman, voted against IT.

"I know I do not stand alone because in many other districts that have turned down a TRE,” she said. "My constituents have told me overwhelmingly they do not want a tax increase."

Residents in South Oak Cliff are busy packing backpacks for their annual back to school festival. They say they get that Dallas ISD needs more money, even as property taxes rise.

“With the state legislature underfunding public education across the state, we don't have an alternative,” said Gerald Britt with City Square.

But before Arthur Fleming with the NAACP gets on board with another tax hike, there is something he wants to see.

“Transparency. Transparency. Transparency,” he said. “We need to know what you're doing with the money.”

West Dallas homeowner Debra Moore is also skeptical.

“We don't need another property tax increase,” she said. “What DISD needs to do is look at their budget to see what they can cut on.”

Moore says her granddaughter was displaced when DISD turned Amelia Earhart Elementary into a magnet school. Her grandkids used to walk to school. Now, they have to take the bus.

“They sent them out of their own community to go to another school and brought in students that did not live in West Dallas to go to Amelia Earhart,” she said. “That's not fair.”

School Board Trustee Miguel Solis uses another school, JW Ray Learning Center, to explain his support for the extra tax revenue. After four years on the improvement required list, the district launched its program called ACE at the school.

“Which requires a lot more resources, but puts the best teachers and principals in the campus,” Solis said. “And in one year, it got an A rating in the state's new accountability rating.”

But the turnaround came too late for JW Ray. It’s being consolidated with Caesar Chavez, and Ignite Middle School is taking its place.

As for accountability for the money, the superintendent has put forward a five-year plan. It would fund merit pay for teachers, early childhood education for preschoolers and more district-run choice schools.

Dr. Hinojosa says the 13 cent increase is especially important now because Dallas is considered “property wealthy.” That means DISD is subject to the state’s Robin Hood plan, where money is taken from one district and given to another.