Editor’s Note: On Aug. 16, the Dallas ISD board of trustees voted 7-1 to put a 13-cent Tax Ratification Election (or TRE) on the Nov. 6 ballot. District 7 Trustee Audrey Pinkerton has proposed a resolution regarding the funds garnered from that property tax rate increase, should voters approve it. We asked her to explain it, and she obliged.
By Audrey Pinkerton
This Thursday, DISD trustees will vote on a resolution related to the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) on November 6. Here’s why that vote is critical to the future of the district.
By now you’ve probably been told that DISD needs more money. And you may be wondering why since your DISD property tax bill keeps going up. Unfortunately, due to the state’s convoluted school funding system, there’s a big disconnect between what you pay and what DISD gets.
At a series of community meetings in August, Superintendent Hinojosa laid out the case for a tax rate increase: without more state funding, the district won’t be able to cover its costs next year. He showed a 5-year plan to raise the tax rate now, set money aside for future cost increases (primarily to keep up with wage inflation), and borrow from those reserves starting in 2020. It’s a prudent plan that insures financial support for the district without relying on a largely unsupportive state legislature.
The problem is that there are no legal means to guarantee that the plan will be carried out. Taxpayers could pay more money, but if none is set aside, two years from now the district could find itself forced to make drastic cuts that would derail our current upward trajectory. To address this issue, I put forth a resolution that formalizes the board’s intent to follow the 5 year plan.
Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute, I keep hearing that one board can’t bind a future board.” True, this board cannot dictate what a future board will do. But a key point is that the biggest part of the set-aside, $126M, will come in this school year, when you and I pay our property tax bills due January 31. The resolution earmarks those surplus funds to be used according to the 5 year plan. The earmarking is an action this board takes when it passes the resolution, so there’s really no “future” to it. Another key point is that boards can state what they intend to do. So the resolution addresses the next 4 years of the 5 year plan with softer language – the board’s intent to support the 5 year plan. Of course, all of this is contingent on the passage of a 13 cent tax rate increase through the Tax Ratification Election. The bottom line is that DISD’s outside counsel reviewed the resolution’s wording and gave it the green light.
Why a resolution? Isn’t a resolution meaningless? Board policy actually allows for a board to designate funds to be used for a specific purpose through a resolution.
The Board may commit a portion of the fund balance for a specific purpose by resolution during a Board meeting. The committed fund balance shall be used according to the Board’s resolution and must be spent for the specified purpose and within a reasonable period of time unless an emergency occurs.
So a resolution is the appropriate mechanism to insure the funds will be there when we need them.
DISD has communicated a 5 year plan to the public. Now it’s time for the board to commit. The public wants and deserves transparency regarding the board’s intent and assurance that their tax dollars will be used to sustain the district during the deficit ahead. A 9-0 approval of the resolution is needed to show the board’s integrity and commitment to the long-term success and financial health of the district.