Frisco ISD voters will decide in August whether to raise property taxes to fund day-to-day operations of the school district.
During a special meeting, School Board members voted unanimously to set the maintenance and operations tax rate at $1.17 per $100 of tax valuation, an increase of 13 cents from last year’s rate.
The interest and sinking (I&S) tax rate will remain the same, at 42 cents, for a total combined tax rate of $1.59.
The higher rate automatically triggers a Tax Ratification Election or TRE, which is tentatively set for Saturday, August 27. Early voting is anticipated between August 10 and 23.
“What we are asking you… to decide for us is something that Plano asked its residents in 2013, McKinney in 2013, Allen in 2011, Celina in 2010, Prosper back in 2007,” said Trustee John Classe. “We’re looking for you to give us some direction.”
If ratified by voters, the new rate will provide FISD with funding per student that is in line with the state average, allowing the District to stem the tide on rising class sizes, add support staff to address growth and catch up to area districts in offering competitive teacher salaries.
By the end of the 2016-17 school year, FISD will have lost $125 million due to legislative cuts to a special fund called Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction or ASATR. In 2017-18, ASATR completely goes away.
“You have entrusted us to look at the big picture, to decide what’s best for all the children of this district and the teachers and staff who work in those buildings,” said Trustee Renée Ehmke. “And that’s what we’ve been trying to do. That’s not something we take lightly at all.”
Prior to the vote, there was an opportunity for public comment and a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Pickens.
Pickens provided historical information about the District’s finances, showing how FISD is receiving and spending less money per student than 10 years ago, when you factor out inflation.
Since 2009-10, the average assessed value of a home in FISD has increased 44 percent. But the District does not retain any of the extra money from increasing values for operations due to the way Texas funds public education. During that same time frame, student enrollment has climbed 58 percent.
“Your tax dollar is not going as far today as it did in 2009-10 because our enrollment has outpaced our property value growth,” Pickens explained.
Pickens also shared data regarding general administrative and maintenance and operations costs. The District falls in the bottom 25 percent of area districts in these areas and spending has decreased as a portion of the budget.
In 2009-10, general administrative costs accounted for 2.4 percent of the operating budget. In 2015-16, the figure was 2 percent.
In 2009-10, expenditures for plant maintenance and operations was 10.1 percent of the budget. In 2015-16, the percentage dropped to 8.7 percent.
“We are spending very conservatively at the central level and putting as much money as we can into the campuses,” Pickens said. “We are constantly looking for ways to create efficiencies and run as lean as possible.”
The proposed 2016-17 budget includes an additional $42.4 million in expenditures. More than $24.5 million would go toward payroll for new staff to address growth, while almost $17 million would support boosting employee salaries and benefits to help FISD attract and keep the best teachers.
The School Board will vote on the proposed budget during the next regular meeting on June 20. That meeting will include a public hearing as well.
View the presentation or watch video of the special meeting.