HISD considers property tax increase to cover budget shortfall

February 21, 2013 2:47:36 PM PST
To many parents, it may feel like deja vu. HISD says it's facing a budget shortfall and one solution is a property tax rate increase.

The state legislature has cut funding at school districts across the state, and HISD officials say they don't want to cut school services, so they don't have a lot of options.

The Houston Independent School District is broke, if you listen to its chief financial officer. So would you be willing to pay more in taxes?

"If they need it, they need it," said Houstonian Marcia Casey. "I'm for education."

"Assuming that they're spending it wisely, then yes," said Houstonian Malcolm Ditto.

Houstonina Wade Church said, "They need to cut, and do better with what they have."

HISD has an annual budget of about $1.6 billion. But the chief financial officer says state cuts have left the district short by about 7.6 percent or 121 million dollars.

"When you pull out $121 million, just think about it in your own income at home," explained HISD CFO Ken Huewitt. "You cut 20 percent of your revenue, you're going to have a lifestyle change."

He says there are a couple of ways to make up the money. The district could cut student services by about $328 a student and lay off some teachers and staff. But the CFO is pushing for a second option that would raise property rates by six percent.

If, for example, you have a $200,000 home, he says you'd have to pay an additional $88.80 a year, or $7.40 a month. The CFO says that property tax increase would raise $65 million, just enough to keep the district operating next year.

Huewitt said, "We're trying not to change the education of our students and to keep it going at a high level. That's why we need to get some more revenues in."

You've heard this argument before. Just a few months ago, voters approved an $1.9 billion bond for HISD.

"Those dollars can't be used for operations," Huewitt explained. "Those dollars are for capitol renovations, so building and renovating schools."

You won't be able to vote on this new proposal. It's all up to HISD's school board. They have until the end of June to make a decision.