Dallas School Trustees Don't Advance 13-Cent Property Tax Rate Hike

Increase would have added $100 million for Dallas school programs

A proposed 13-cent property tax rate hike won't appear on the November ballot after Dallas School Trustees failed to advance the measure in a vote Thursday evening.

The vote was 5-4, but six votes were required to place the issue on the ballot.

Proponents had argued that the tax hike was needed for programs they can’t expand without the extra money.

The tax rate hike would've collected an extra $100 million as the Dallas Independent School District faces possible transfer of money to other districts in the near future under the state’s “Robin Hood” formula. The state rules send money from richer districts to property poor districts. Dallas ISD faces big challenges educating kids but enjoys higher property wealth and sharply rising property values compared with some other districts.

The tax hike proposal was split into three separate questions for teacher merit raises, early childhood education and early college programs.

Prior to Thursday's vote by the trustees, a teachers’ union leader said her members were divided on the salary issue because many think they all deserve raises.

“Incentive pay doesn’t include everyone,” Alliance AFT President Rena Honea said.

Teachers supported the other two proposals, according to Honea.

Early childhood money would've full day Pre-K classes available to more young students.

“When children start with us in Pre-K, both their language acquisition and their vocabulary when they’re in the classroom evolve at a much higher rate,” said Kramer Elementary School Principal Katie Eska. “It adds value at an exponential rate having them here for a full day.”

Early college credit programs currently offered at several Dallas high schools would've been expanded to more campuses. High school graduates also receive 60 hours of college credit and associate degrees under the program.

The program focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math at Conrad High School in cooperation with Richland College, according to Conrad Principal Anthony Mays.

Graduates can immediately enter the workforce full time or earn money on the side as they work for higher college degrees.

“They’re going to start at a really competitive place in terms of their salaries based on the degrees that we’ve chosen and opportunities that we’ve chosen with Richland College,” Mays said. “We have students coming from outside the district that are interested in becoming a part of the collegiate academy.”

The total Dallas school tax rate would've risen to $1.41 per $100 value with the additional 13 cents – still lower than many surrounding districts. The Dallas ISD average $157,000 value home would've paid an additional $205 per year with the increase. Officials had said the increase would've been reversed if the new programs didn't work.

Still, voters would have been asked to give the district more money just a year after approving $1.3 billion in school improvement borrowing in a November 2015 referendum.

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