HISD to Maintain Harris County’s Lowest School Tax Rate
HISD tightens belt after major state funding cut
The HISD Board of Education tonight is expected to maintain Harris County’s lowest school district property tax rate despite the loss of $78 million in state funding.
Members of the HISD Board of Education will be asked to consider the proposal at their regular monthly meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 13, at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center (4400 W. 18th Street). To read the full agenda, click here.
The proposed tax rate of $1.1567 per $100 of taxable value is the lowest of any of the 21 school districts in Harris County. HISD homeowners are also among the few in Texas who receive a 20 percent optional homestead exemption. This exemption is in addition to the standard $15,000 exemption given to all Texas homeowners. As a result, the owner of a home with an appraised value of $200,000 in a school district with HISD’s tax rate but no optional homestead exemption would pay $2,140 in property taxes. HISD’s decision to grant the optional homestead exemption reduces the bill on a home with the same value down to $1,677, a savings of $463.
In 2010, the average Harris County school property tax rate was $1.3996 per $100 of taxable value, and the highest was $1.5266.
HISD is able to reduce the tax burden by running an efficient operation. In the past two years, HISD has eliminated more than 700 non-campus job positions. Budget cuts have also resulted in HISD employing 300 fewer teachers this school year, or an average of one fewer teacher per campus.
Earlier this year, the national Council of the Great City Schools honored HISD with their Excellence in Financial Management Award. Only one other U.S. school district has ever earned the award.
At the same time, HISD students are achieving at higher levels than ever before. This year, HISD set a new record for the percentage of HISD students not just passing, but also scoring at the tougher “commended” level on all subjects tested by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. The number of college-level Advanced Placement exams on which HISD students scored high enough to earn college credit now stands at 6,800, a 39 percent increase from just two years ago.
“The HISD community demands schools that are run efficiently and effectively, especially at a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet,” said HISD Board President Paula Harris. “By holding the line on taxes and helping our students reach new academic heights, we are providing a strong return on our taxpayers’ investment.”
The two-year budget adopted by the Texas Legislature earlier this year is expected to reduce HISD’s funding by $122 million next school year.
The following items are among the other issues the Board is expected to consider tonight.
· The Board will consider approving the ASPIRE teacher performance-pay model for the 2011-2012 school year. The revised model seeks to reduce the total payout amount, which reached $42.8 million for 2009-2010 and went to more than 90 percent of eligible employees. By raising the performance standards to the proposed new levels, the total payout would have been no more than $26.9 million to 57 percent of employees.
· The Board will consider seeking waivers from the state’s elementary school minimum class-size requirement of 22 students per classroom. This year, HISD principals have requested 1,055 such waivers compared to 693 in 2010.
· The Board will consider strengthening the Board member Code of Ethics to prohibit, in most cases, communications on potential vendors between Board members and HISD staff and current or potential vendors.