Dallas ISD Board Places 13-cent TRE on November Ballot

TRE

Dallas ISD trustees Dan Micciche and Justin Henry talked to supporters of a Tax Ratification Election before Thursday’s board meeting (photo courtesy Rob Shearer).

It took three tries, but a 13-cent Tax Ratification Election (TRE) was passed by the Dallas ISD board of trustees in a special called meeting Thursday night.

The vote (which was seven for, one against, and one absent) will place a measure that will increase the district’s maintenance and operating tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17.

There has not been an increase since 2008.

A cheer from the gallery went up as what various advocates had been asking for — a chance to put a potential property tax increase on the ballot — finally passed after three tries over as many years.

If voters approve the measure on Nov. 6, it will provide an additional $126 million every year to support early learning, racial equity, and choice school programs, as well as compensation.

“The median market value of homes in Dallas ISD as determined by the Dallas Central Appraisal District is $184,574,” a statement from the district said after the vote. “If voters approve the TRE, the 13 cents increase would raise property taxes on homes at the average market value by $0.65 cents per day or $20 a month—less than the cost of a tank of gas.”

Before the vote, all seven trustees in the room and one who videoconferenced in — board president Edwin Flores — spoke about their reasons for their stance on the TRE, beginning with Audrey Pinkerton, who was notably absent from the previous vote last year. This year, Lew Blackburn, who was heard calling in prior to the meeting but then was unable to stay connected from his hotel in Washington DC, was absent. He had been expected to vote no.

“One thing that’s clear to me is that the state has really failed to keep up with the increasing cost of education,” she said, adding that the board also needs to keep in mind the long-term financial health to the district.

Trustee Joyce Foreman had a 10-point list about why she wouldn’t be voting for the TRE. She said new revenue will send millions to the state. She also questioned why the district needed to raise taxes when the city and county wouldn’t be.

“Taxpayers who think they will be sending their tax dollars to Dallas ISD will be fooled,” she said, and added that some of that money will go to the state’s general fund via recapture.

She also had concerns about the racial equity plan, and said she felt that there was not enough transparency when it came to district spending, and not enough checks and balances.

“I am a firm believer that DISD can do well with the budget it has,” Foreman said. She was the lone no vote.

Flores said he would be supporting the TRE. “I think it’s long overdue, long overdue for our students, to be able to have the same kind of revenue suburban school districts do when they raise their taxes,” he said.

“A vote against the TRE is a vote for the charter schools,” he added.

Unsurprisingly, the district’s newest trustee, Justin Henry, was also for the TRE. After all, the board’s failure to place the measure on the ballot last year played a huge part in his decision to run for the District 9 seat, and many saw the runoff election between then-incumbent Bernadette Nutall and Henry as a referendum on a potential TRE.

Henry cited the recent successes of Dallas ISD, and the promising programs the increase would help fund, including the racial equity program he helped craft as a volunteer. He said he knew the board was committed to making sure all students in the district had access to International Baccalaureate programs and other innovative programs, but that would take funding.

“History has its eyes on us,” Henry said, quoting the musical Hamilton. “People are going to look back on this — what do we do when the state didn’t provide adequate funding. What did we do locally?”

Miguel Solis said that the hard work of swaying the voters would begin by dispelling myths. He then took to dismantling some of Foreman’s assertions, including the question of why the district needed to raise the rate when the county and city did not, explaining that those two taxing entities also had other means of raising revenue that the district, which is dependent on state funding formulas and property taxes, does not.

He also countered her assertion that most of the funds raised from the rate increase would end up going to the state’s general fund via recapture, saying that if the district could fund the programs that are already attracting and retaining families on a smaller scale, they would be able to attract more families back to the district and retain more of their per-pupil funding.

But most of all, he reiterated Pinkerton’s point that the state legislature has been proving unhelpful when it comes to adequately funding public education.

“Session after session after session, they have failed us,” Solis he said. “It’s time we take matters into our own hands.”

Trustees Dustin Marshall and Jaime Resendez both pointed to the fact that the district’s successes were reason enough to try to convince voters to vote for the rate hike.

“DISD has been on a roll, and we need to do everything we can,” Resendez said.

Marshall said that parents, schools, and the district have been celebrating stellar A-F scores (more on that next week) from the state all week, but to maintain or even better the district’s B score, they would need to adequately fund the programs and teachers that brought that about.

“Just think what we can do with an additional $126 million,” he said. “The only way we can continue the trajectory we are on and invest in programs we know are working, is by a tax ratification election.”

Marshall said he felt voters would want to invest in continuing the successful track the district is on.

Trustee Dan Micciche recounted the successes of the district, pointing out that the district has one of the highest child poverty rates, but last year outperformed the state and major charter schools in the area in reading gains. It also has one of the largest dual language programs in the country, magnet schools that are among the best in the country, 23 collegiate prep academies, and has experienced a 10-fold increase in vocational programs. The latter two contribute directly to college readiness and/or workplace readiness goals.

“What we are doing is working,” he said, adding that all those initiatives require additional funding.

Since 2006, more than 500 school districts in the state have called a TRE. Two-thirds of the 38 area districts in Dallas and Collin counties have passed a TRE as well. In November, Duncanville, Cedar Hill, Richardson, and Lancaster schools will also approach voters for a property tax rate increase.

Dallas voters will see two other measures on the ballot from the district in addition to the TRE. One measure will approve two bonds related to the district’s new venture into bussing that it was thrust into after the collapse of Dallas County Schools. The voters will have a say on whether a $75 million bond for the purchase of replacement buses over the next 10 years and the construction of a bus barn (the district is currently leasing a bus barn from Lancaster ISD), and another $75 million bond that will basically be a refi of money borrowed in the 2015 bridge plan, and will move the debt from M&O to the district’s interest and sinking tax rate.

Another measure will ask voters to approve a different way for the district to pay recapture money back to the state (the district’s tab will likely be around $65 million). Dallas ISD will ask voters to allow the district to purchase attendance credits from the Texas Education Agency instead of other options, which include surrendering some properties or consolidating with another district.

 

10 Comment

  • Beyond unconscionable in the immediate aftermath of the Caraway scandal. Just a bunch of opportunist users who see a chance to claw back the Trump tax cut for their own selfish benefit.

    • mm

      I”m not sure where you’re going with this, but some facts:
      1) The Dallas City Council and the Dallas ISD board of trustees are two completely separate governmental entities. While they sometimes work together on projects (like parks or parking and what have you), their budgets do not intermingle. Dwaine Caraway was a Dallas City Council member, not a trustee.
      2) Dallas County Schools, which was the genesis of Caraway’s legal predicament, was also a separate taxing entity that was basically a transportation vendor for nine different school districts, including Dallas ISD. It too had a board of trustees, but other than executing contracts for transportation and cooperating with routing, they had no say in operations at Dallas ISD.
      3) Dallas ISD has not raised the property tax rate since 2008, and has one of the lowest effective tax rates in North Texas, and the highest rate of childhood poverty.
      4) My story is a fairly faithful accounting of the meeting last night. Nobody mentioned Donald Trump, nor his tax cuts.
      5) I don’t want my property taxes to go up either, but since the state won’t pony up its fair share, someone has to. IF you dislike this, I suggest looking for state lege candidates who are willing to come up with better school funding formulas.
      https://candysdirt.com/2018/04/13/dallas-needs-money-heres-mad/

      • Just like the Police & Fire Pension Board and the City Council were separate entities and no one is to blame for the $5 billion or so investment shortfall except the rank and file first responders that Kleinman (who actually served on the board) chose to vilify in his recent re-election campaign. No way any responsible entity related to education funding asks for more money in light of the recent bribery scandal without at least putting its bureaucrats through the motions of a due diligence budgetary review on behalf of taxpayers. The expediency of getting the tax increase on the ballot obviously out-weighed any even passing regard to the interests of taxpayers. And, I suppose that the waste and fraud involved in the Caraway-related contract (a really substantial amount in relation to the DISD ask) will be accounted for, corrected, and offset on future tax bills. Really think that the city should be more concerned with clawing back the money that Caraway took, investigating who else may have been involved, and answering to taxpayers than clawing back as much of the recent federal tax cut as they can to line the pockets of the resident education pimps.

        • mm

          Darling, you’re comparing apples to ziploc bags of warm flatulence. They’re not the same at all.

          When’s the last time you visited a Dallas ISD school? I’d love to take you on a tour of one. Let’s do it!

          • Sorry. Lost all respect and interest in Dallas public schools when I read that the pregnancy rate at Thomas Jefferson high school near me was approaching 50 percent 20 or 25 years ago. Have always felt that forcing these Hispanic families to send their daughters into these conditions instead of voucherizing the system so that they might have a chance at parochial or all-girls schools was the heart of evil. Similarly, Caraway would not have been bribed and any cost from the contract fraud would in theory have been absorbed by the private sector instead of tax payers if Dallas public education were totally privatized. Of course, a large element of the public education establishment opposes any form of privatization because they know that they would lose their jobs in a market environment controlled by parental interest.

        • Sorry I apologize. I was wrong. You are super dumb.

    • You are dumb.

    • mm

      Wait – are you basing your opinion on information from 20 years ago? I don’t know exactly what to do with that.
      But to wade in, your comment does illustrate exactly why school funding needs to be improved — people expect so much from schools.
      People expect that an urban school will address all the ills society outside the schoolhouse thrusts upon students. Dallas ISD feeds students for free (often three meals, and into the summer, even), many schools provide laundry facilities so students can clean their clothes, teachers and staff are trained to help students who have little reason to hope for better thanks to their circumstances develop the confidence and desire to do more, provide after school activities to engage students, work with parents to better prepare them to help their students learn, provide homeless services for homeless students (including a shelter that will be opened soon), and assistance to pregnant students. Many schools also have food pantries, too.
      And all that is in addition to its charge of educating students – why? Because a hungry, dirty, hopeless student doesn’t learn.
      And even you expect a Dallas ISD high school to do what countless governmental and NGO agencies have tried to do to varying success – slow down teen pregnancy. And the things that work? High schools aren’t allowed to talk about that, in most cases.
      Since you aren’t up-to-date, let me help you: Thomas Jefferson High School, home of the Patriots, is a collegiate prep academy now. Students can graduate with both their high school diplomas AND two years of college – free. Think of what that does for a student who maybe has trouble with tests, and can’t pass the ACT or SAT, but is definitely smart enough for college (those credits transfer to 4 year colleges). Think about what that means to the kid who would be the first person in their family to go to college. Think about what that would mean – since you brought it up – to the single mom with a child to raise.
      Those are the kinds of things Dallas ISD spends its money on.
      If you were truly curious, truly interested, I’d see you at a budget meeting. They’re actually pretty interesting and informative, and you get a whole lot of really great information about where the money goes, and how much is spent on the bigwigs versus the schools.
      If you were really, truly invested in making sure Dallas ISD was better, instead of reveling in what you perceive – wrongly – it to be, you’d be on an SBDM, or you’d volunteer at a school.
      But you aren’t, and you won’t, I wager. Consider it a personal challenge.
      And in closing, and for the 3rd time, DCS and Dallas ISD are not the same thing. Dallas ISD officials had nothing to do with Force Multiplier Solutions’ decision to bribe DCS bigwigs and Dwaine Caraway. In fact, last year they contemplated not renewing the contract with DCS, but ultimately and grudgingly gave them another year, with a lot of benchmarks to be met for on time rates and safety. They only got a year contract, and during that year, everything unfolded in regards to the extent of the scandal. When it was legal to do so, Dallas ISD and the other eight districts who contracted with DCS began meeting with the dissolution committee to begin unspooling the mess.
      I know you just want to continue to argue this point, so I’m not going to engage with you anymore. I need you to quit being wrong, and you don’t seem to be compelled to do so, and instead want to throw out ridiculousness at every turn.
      Have a lovely weekend.

  • “There has not been an increase since 2008.”

    There has not been an increase in RATE, but there has been a significant increase in actual taxes because of home value increases, right? Maybe I missed something or don’t understand how this works, but I feel like this is a really important point that was completely ignored in this article.

    I don’t know anyone in Dallas living in a $184,574 house, but based on the few neighborhoods where those homes still exist, I am guessing that “tank of gas” means a lot to them. For the rest of us lucky enough to afford more, well, we would pay more. I don’t oppose the concept of paying more because my house is worth more, but geez, give us all a chance to recover from the shock of our May tax bills!

    • Please note that, even though Dallas County Schools no longer provides services, we continue to pay DCS taxes to support its $103 million in debt. I guess that we are are also supposed to believe that DISD did not receive any subsidy related to our past tax payments to DCS and, thus, none of the cost of the Caraway contract fiasco would be subsumed under the proposed November ballot measure tax increase as the DCS and DISD were completely separate even though the DISD superintendent sits on the committee dissolving DCS. The question then becomes how many Caraway-contract-related tax increases we are being assessed. Certainly, paying taxes to DCS for services that no longer exist is a tax increase. And, to the extent that DISD has to come out of pocket in an amount greater than its contracted payment to DCS for similar services, that would constitute a double Caraway-contract-related tax increase subsumed under the ballot measure. And, this all on top of the taxpayer cost for the similarly brain-dead $5 billion or so police and fire pension fiasco where the Dallas City Council supposedly bore no responsibility even though four of its members sat on the pension board.
      Higher-end property values can only weather so many tax increases and the problem has become much more acute given the limitation of state and local tax deductions under the recent federal tax reform. Well past time for some form of government accountability related to the recent parade of tax increases related to circumstances that should have been easily avoidable by competent administrators.