Voters in the Alamo Heights Independent School District will go to the polls Nov. 2 to weigh a proposal that tweaks the district’s property-tax rate.
The school board unanimously voted Aug. 12 to call the special-tax election. Alamo Heights ISD proposes raising the maintenance and operation part of its tax rate from $.9764 per $100 valuation by 1.7 cents, and reducing the debt service portion of the rate by 2 cents.
The maintenance and operation part of the rate funds the district’s daily functions; the debt service portion — also called interest and sinking — generates revenue for debt- and bond-supported capital projects, such as those backed by the district’s $135 million bond passed by voters in 2017.
If approved, AHISD will have its first M&O tax hike in seven years. However, the total tax rate would go down from $1.1964 to $1.1934 per $100 valuation.
The state requires cities and school districts hold an elections on any proposed tax rate exceeding the voter-approved tax rate — in this case, the M&O rate.
Superintendent Dana Bashara said the estimated $1.4 million raised by the new tax rate gradually would be added to the district’s general operations fund.
The same monies also would stay inside AHISD and not be subject to recapture by the state.
Alamo Heights and Boerne independent school districts are
the lone two area school districts mandated to send chunks of revenue to the state and help ensure funding equity between property-rich and property-poor districts.
The state expects to recapture $33.3 million from AHISD in the 2021-2022 school year.
“Every penny, all the money, will stay in the district,” Bashara said. “We’ll need voters to approve the 2-cent increase on M&O, but we’re decreasing I&S, so there’s an overall decrease of .03 (cents), so we’ll still need voters to come out and approve that.”
Oct 4 is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election. Early voting is Oct. 18-29.
Bashara said gradually adding new revenue from a voter-approved rate would allow AHISD the flexibility
to make its employee pay scale more competitive with those of similar area school districts.
“That’s something we’d benefit from,” she added.
Trustee David Hornberger expressed frustration with the state’s continued use of the so-called “Robin Hood” recapture system of funding Texas public schools.
“The reason they take all that money away is because they can’t figure out on their own how to fund
the schools they are constitutionally obligated to fund,” Hornberger said. “It drives me crazy that they spend time arguing about things that are irrelevant and not on how to fund our schools.”
Hornberger commended AHISD administrators for maintaining tight budgets over the years, but lamented how the state’s school- finance methods have played a part in keeping the district from more adequately increasing pay for educators.
“Our teachers want to stay here, but they’re either going to make more money here or get more raises somewhere else,” he added.
The school board unanimously adopted a 2021-2022 budget with a $95.6 million in total revenues, and $99.3 million in total expenditures.
The district projects a $2.6 million general-fund deficit, and a $1.07 million deficit in the I&S fund budget.
The new AHISD budget contains a 1% salary increase for teachers. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, from the newest federal COVID-19 relief
bill, will offset $700,000 used to support the pay raises.
With $20 million in reserves, the district will cover the projected budget deficits, officials said.