Thursday, September 6, 2018

RISD TRE Information Meeting #1

The Richardson ISD held the first of many information meetings about the upcoming Tax Ratification Election. The meeting was held at the Richardson YMCA. I was there live-tweeting the show. What follows are my tweets, with only the most cursory proofreading. If I heard wrong or garbled what I heard, that's on me. Don't blame the RISD without checking your own sources first. Here, you get what you pay for.

  • About 50 people at Richardson YMCA for informational meeting about November's Tax Ratification Election led by BoT Treasurer Kim Caston.
  • Current tax rate is $1.04 for M&O plus $0.35 for Bonds for a total of $1.39. Board is asking to raise the M&O tax rate to $1.17, requiring voter approval. Hence, the TRE in November.
  • 2017-2018 budget had a deficit of $6.3 million. Without TRE, deficit is projected to reach $54.1 million over the next five years as state funding decreases. As property values (and taxes) go up, state aid goes down. Only a tax rate increase can provide more dollars per student.
  • We were promised school finance reform in the last legislative session. It didn't happen. Caston holds little hope that will change in next session because of needs for Hurricane Harvey relief and needs for more school security.
  • Neighboring districts spend $8,155 per student. RISD spends $7,717 per student for a more challenging socio-economic student population. A tax hike is needed to meet needs.
  • Can't we just cut administration costs? Only 1% of RISD staff is in Central Administration. 3% is in school principals and vice-principals.
  • RISD starting salaries for teachers are lowest of all neighboring districts to the north.
  • 2011 state funding cut led to hiring freeze led to over 500 class size waivers in RISD. We don't want to see a return to that. We need *more* teachers for AVID, ACE, and special-needs student populations.
  • Increased demands for student safety and school security needs funding.
  • Tax hike will gross about $30 million more dollars. State recapture will result in a net of about $24 million. $16 million will go to teacher raises and new hires. $3 million will go to special ed teachers and support. $1.6 million for security.
  • RISD is one of only 3 districts that offers a 10% homestead exemption. Tax hike will amount to about $25 per month for the average priced home in RISD.
  • Without TRE, we have to cut $10 million a year. On the table: No raises. Hiring freeze. Class size waivers. School consolidation. Reduced class offerings (CTE). No new security personnel. "Pay for play" for extra-curriculars.
  • Q&A: Why not let the state fix the funding problem?
    State has been working on it for 20 years and hasn't fixed it yet. Who knows if it will be fixed next term?
  • Q&A: Is there a way to raise money for RISD without sending any to Austin?
    Federal and private grants are not subject to recapture, but anything substantial is subject.
  • Q&A: Can RISD hike taxes again next year?
    State cap is $1.17 for M&O tax rate, so no further hike is possible without state action.
  • Q&A: What measurable outcomes in student performance will RISD commit to if TRE passes?
    RISD commits that all students will perform at or above grade level. (Editorial eye roll. Really? All?)
  • And that's a wrap.

1 comment:

MGrau said...

I was at that meeting and I agree with a lot of what you say, One huge thing that I think keeps getting overlooked is that state funds go down as our property taxes go up. That is a good thing, not a bad thing, Keep in mind that property taxes have to be used for public education based on the Texas Constitution. Sales tax can be used for anything by the legislature. Plus I think property rich districts should help poor districts. Otherwise, Highland Park gets good schools and Van doesn't. (No offense meant to Van, I just picked a small town at random. They may be rich.)

I wish RISD would look at ways to improve teacher morale so they want to work here. A very simple one is for admin to teach one class or sub in classes. A more expensive one is to put a hard cap on class size instead of using an average across the entire school. RISD salaries for experienced teachers are in line with other districts and I'd rather keep our teachers than hire ones without experience.

And I would support pay for perfomance for administrators NOT teachers. Administration needs to step up and give the teachers the time they need to plan, the class sizes necessary to teach and the students the means and support to learn.

The best reason I've heard for the TRE is that when adjusted for inflation, RISD is spending 9% less per student than 10 years ago. The big question is will RISD spend it wisely??