RICHARDSON, Texas - Some North Texas school districts are asking voters to raise taxes this election, to provide more funding for schools.
The Texas Legislature has allowed money for Texas classrooms to go stagnant for years, in spite of inflation and population growth. At a time when State Republican leaders are pushing property tax cuts, Kim Caston is promoting a tax increase.
“It is absolutely illogical, and the reason one third of districts in the state, have also gone out for a Tax Ratification Election,” she said.
The 12-year trustee with Richardson ISD says she understands families are already feeling pressure from higher tax bills based on rising property values.
“This is the question I get at Tom Thumb, if my taxes are going up, why does the district need more money?” said Caston. “In a nutshell is because of the way it is structured, as taxes go up, state aid goes down.”
The state now only contributes a quarter of the district’s funding.
“We can no longer do for our teachers and kids at $1.04 what we were able to do in 2007,” said Caston.
The message is the same in Dallas. 90% of Dallas ISD students are considered economically disadvantaged, yet the district is now considered property wealthy, and have to give money back to the state.
In Frisco, the school district is working to keep up with rapid growth.
“The state of Texas, thru the governor and legislature, look at local taxes and say if they're rising, we can cut back. Even though that leaves these districts with resources that are not matching population growth in their schools. The school districts feel an ever tightening noose, but governor and legislature are able to claim they are keeping taxes low.”
In Dallas, the tax ratification would cost the average Dallas homeowner $240 per year. In Richardson, it would cost $305 per year.
Frisco however, felt the string of voters rejecting a previous tax ratification, so the district has orchestrated its new plan as a tax swap, which will not raise taxes.
Cal Jillson is a political science professor at SMU. She says the state’s current school funding system is broken.
“The more straightforward funding scheme would be for the state to raise its allocation to districts and do less of this funding transfer among districts,” said Jillson.
The pressure on lawmakers to find a solution will be growing when the legislature convenes in January. The Texas Education Agency’s preliminary budget projects a $3.5 billion decline in state funding over the next two years.
In the past decade, voters in nine North Texas school districts have agreed to raise their taxes to provide more funding for their schools.