The new school finance bill passed by the state legislature allowed school districts to increase tax rates by four pennies. School districts that do get an additional $12 million from the state. The HISD proposed budget included that four cent tax increase. That inclusion divided the trustees. Board member Natasha Kamrani was one of several who felt the budget had no plan for improving the district.
This budget assumes that we should raise taxes and then figure out how to spend the money.
But others including board member Kevin Hoffman argued the money is needed, adding this would be the first tax increase since 1999 despite higher operating expenses for the district.
We were able to reduce our budget by over $220 million, eliminating almost 600 positions, all while state funding continued to decrease to the tune of $118 million. Folks, there's no more meat on the bone.
Board member Harvin Moore argued that an earlier version of the budget, that did not include the tax rate increase, still increased spending and accomplished many goals, including teacher pay raises by an average of seven and a half percent. The board unanimously approved that budget without the four cent tax rate increase, but not before adding another one percent to the average teacher pay raise. Moore says teachers get their pay raises and the tax rate will drop for property owners.
The average property owner in HISD is going to see a significant tax drop this year and another significant tax drop next year, but the amount of money being spent on public education thankfully is going to increase.
Board members debated where the nearly $6.5 million would come from to pay for the additional increase. Trustees discussed taking it from the emergency funds or from a facility maintenance fund. Superintendent Abe Saavedra says it will come from existing revenues. He says some adjustments will be made to the financial sheets.
Over all I think we have a good budget, we'll work with it. I don't think it meets a lot of our deferred needs, but we'll move forward with it.
While the budget was approved this week, the trustees will not formerly vote on the tax rate until later this year. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.