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Houston District Projects $76 Million Deficit For Next School Year

Final numbers will depend on property values, enrollment and if state lawmakers take on school finance reform next year.

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan welcomed students back to Hilliard Elementary in Northeast Houston Monday. Students, who had been displaced from their home campus last year by Harvey, returned to a renovated facility. Despite that challenge, Hilliard Elementary improved its state rating last year.
Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said that informal feedback indicates voters would be reluctant to support a property tax increase at this time.

The Houston Independent School District is projected to face a $76 million budget shortfall for the 2019-2020 school year.

HISD Chief Financial Officer Rene Barajas gave board members the current estimate in the first of several budget workshops this week.

He also shared details on what it would look like if the board decided to ask voters to approve a tax hike. It’s called a tax ratification election, or TRE. 

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told trustees that currently, a tax increase would have a slim chance of passing. She explained that there has not been an official survey or voter research.

“But what we’re hearing from various community leaders and people is [that] until the tenor and climate of the district changes, it would be hard for taxpayers to support a TRE,” Lathan said.

“We would need to go back out and we can do some things around the survey and try to get input. But it’s just some things that we’ve heard from some groups that we’ve met with.”

HISD has never had a special election to raise property taxes. This fall, however, voters in several North Texas school districts, including Dallas, approved tax hikes for things like employee raises, prekindergarten and special education services.

It’s still early in the budget process for Houston and other area school districts.

Final numbers will depend on property values, enrollment and if state lawmakers take on school finance reform next year.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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