Why We Favor a Smaller Tax Increase for Dallas ISD

These words are chiseled on the front of the Dallas Morning News building: "Acknowledge the right of the people to get from the newspaper both sides of every important question." But the newspaper's editorial board isn't living up to that creed in the way it handles Dallas ISD issues.On August 18 there was a critical vote about raising the property tax rate and ordering a tax ratification election to raise additional funds for Dallas ISD. Four options were made: a 2 cent swap with no overall tax increase, a 13 cent tax increase, a 6 cent tax increase, and a 2 cent tax increase.The 2 cent swap was the only option originally presented to board members by the administration prior to the board approving the 2017-2018 balanced budget in June. The tax swap would have yielded more than $42 million for the district without impacting tax payers. The funds were to be used for programming in our schools and to fulfill a promise the board made to district employees to provide a much-needed pay raise.A recent Dallas Morning News editorial was very misleading because many who read it believed that Trustees Joyce Foreman, Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn had voted against offering the citizens of Dallas the right to vote for a tax increase. Not so, we voted for two of the four options made available that night.All three of us voted against the 13 cent and 6 cent options. But we supported both of the 2 cent options, either of which would have gone to the voters as a tax ratification election. Trustees Marshall, Flores and Solis voted against the final 2 cent option, thus rejecting the TRE.We voted against the 6 cent and the 13 cent proposals because both would have affected the district's ability to retain its full tax funding. Under state law, those funding levels would have resulted in lower state funding for the district or even a requirement to share around $13 million to $39 million of the local tax money with the state. We also ask readers to reflect on the 2015 bond election in which the board promised that DISD would not raise taxes to cover the bond.Further, in what was touted as a cost saving move, the district paid $47 million cash for a building to house administrators that had a taxable value of less than half of that amount. The building needs more than $14 million to make it viable for district staff. The district has sold prime property for far less than its market value.There was a marketing campaign that touted that most funds from a 13 cent increase would be spent in our individual districts. While that may seem admirable, there was no guarantee the schools would have received the funds, after presenting a proposal that required several levels of approval. Also, this was marketed without regard for federal comparability guidelines, which require that student funding be comparable to similar schools throughout the district.We thank those who have provided an outpouring of support for us, and we hope to have at least provided clarity regarding the board's actions. Even though some may disagree about our vote that night, please understand that we always strive to act in the best interest of children while being good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to the board.Joyce Foreman, Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn are Dallas ISD trustees.  Continue reading...

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