Austin ISD Trustees Want to Raise Your Taxes

Tonight the Austin ISD Trustees will vote on whether or not to raise your taxes.  This goes to show how important local elections are where a tiny number of voters decides who gets to sit on these boards that have the power to tax and spend.

The Austin ISD Trustees “only” want to raise your taxes 7.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.  That comes out to about one McDonald’s Happy Meal a month right?  Or some other small number that the good tax payers of Austin ISD should have no problem giving up for the greater good.  Now would be a good time to read Holly Hansen’s post on “Happy Meal Economics.”

The following article is from the Austin Chamber explaining why the Austin ISD Trustees want to raise your taxes.

Austin ISD Trustees To Vote on Tax Rate Election Monday: Be HeardBy austinchamber

On Monday night, Austin ISD trustees will decide whether to hold a November election asking voters for permission to raise the tax rate by up to five cents per $100 of assessed value to fund district operations. The board will also vote on an additional tax increase of 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed value tax to cover district debt payments on previously approved bonds. The 2.5-cent tax increase does not require voter approval, according to district officials.

The Austin Chamber continues to ask trustees to adopt greater efficiencies—and certainly not to dig a deeper fiscal hole—before considering a tax rate election. On Monday, the Chamber will again ask trustees to dedicate themselves to cutting deeper in order to reallocate money to fund the programs that will result in the higher graduation, college/career readiness and post-secondary enrollment rate goals outlined in the district’s strategic plan.

All trustees would benefit from hearing your views on a potential tax rate election, in particular Trustees Sam Guzman, Annette Lovoi, Tamala Barksdale, Lori Moya, and Robert Schneider. The Chamber would appreciate your advice and your willingness to contact Trustees in advance of Monday’s vote.

Judging by the discussion at last night’s school board meeting and discussions at past board meetings, here’s where the trustees seem to stand on a November tax rate election:

Standing firm against the five-cent tax increase: President Mark Williams, Vice President Vincent Torres, Cheryl Bradley and Christine BristerStrongly in favor of the five-cent tax increase: Tamara Barksdale and Sam GuzmanPreviously said they would support the five-cent tax increase: Secretary Lori Moya and Annette LoVoiPreviously said he would support the five-cent tax increase if the district’s “house is in order”: Robert SchneiderDr. Carstarphen has not taken a public position on the five-cent tax increase as of this writing.

Last night, Sam Guzman said that he will propose the five-cent tax increase on Monday regardless of the superintendent’s position. If that motion fails, he will propose that the district spend up to $22 million into fund balance to fund additional teacher salary increases beyond the small increase already included in the budget, as well as other currently unfunded programs.

This motion, if adopted, would not represent fiscal stewardship, could reduce Austin ISD’s bond rating (which increases future borrowing costs) and will create an even deeper fiscal hole trustees will have to dig out of next year before even starting to fund key strategic plan priorities.

Gene Austin, Chamber board member and CEO of software company Convio, Inc., told trustees last night that the Chamber is enthusiastic about Austin ISD’s positive direction and strongly supportive of the district accomplishing the goals of its strategic plan. Austin recommended that trustees work on further financial efficiencies before talking with voters about a higher tax rate.  The Austin, Austin Asian American and Capital City African American chambers have all asked the trustees to balance the FY11 budget and fund the strategic plan.

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Pilar Sanchez and President/CEO Andy Martinez asked trustees to “demonstrate further efficiencies before seeking a tax increase” and “limit…use of the reserve fund,” in a statement Sanchez gave last night. They also asked trustees to adhere to the strategic plan, continue recent positive changes, and aggressively pursue funding from external sources. (Read the full statement.)

Charlie Betts from the Downtown Austin Alliance also spoke in opposition to the five-cent tax rate increase last night.

In closing comments to last night’s board meeting, Austin ISD Board President Mark Williams cited business concerns, among many others, about supporting a tax rate election as a compelling reason to get Austin ISD’s house in order before approaching voters about a tax increase.

Please contact dscheberle@austinchamber.com with any questions or comments.

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