FBISD puts decisions on cuts, compensation, and school security in voter's hands

Briana Conner Image
Friday, September 30, 2022
Fort Bend County voters asked to approve new tax rage in November
Fort Bend ISD is asking you to help them dig out of a $47 million budget deficit through property taxes.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- In November, there will be something on the ballot that voters in Fort Bend County have never seen before. It's called a voter approval tax rate election, or VATRE.

The school district is asking people to help them dig out of a multi-million dollar budget deficit through property taxes.

Right now, people living in Fort Bend County are in line for a seven cent cut, which means the property tax rate would go down to $1.14. The school district said that would contribute to their budget deficit. They want voters to say yes to keeping the rate the same at $1.21. The money generated would go toward raises for teachers and support staff, as well as school security.

Glenda Guzman Macal is the Fort Bend American Federation of Teachers president. That group is throwing its full support behind Proposition A. The measure would give teachers and support staff an automatic $500 raise, and then an extra $100 for each year they've been employed in the district.

Guzman Macal said Proposition A is a requirement. "Pay is very important, especially for the amount of hours our teachers are putting in. I don't think, until you are in the profession, that you understand how difficult being a teacher is. It is a rocket science," she said.

District leaders said the measure is also designed to increase security by adding a school resource officer to all 55 elementary school campuses.

"Hopefully this will pass, and we'll be on the right track. Should it not pass, we'll be sitting back down at the table," Superintendent Dr. Christie Whitbeck said.

Politicians have come down on both sides of the issue. "I am in full support of the VATRE. This is in the best interest of all stakeholders. I'm in support of it because it will generate $47 million in additional revenue with no increase to the current tax rate. This will provide a much-needed pay increase for teachers, paraprofessionals and provide much-needed safety measures for schools by adding police officers in elementary schools. In addition, it will maintain successful programs of choice and implementation of a longevity pay program for all staff," District 27 Representative Ron Reynolds, a Democrat, said.

"Property taxes are a major concern to most Fort Bend County residents. FBISD adopted a budget with a $47 million dollar deficit and added additional spending on top of that. I am a strong advocate of fully funding our schools and ensuring all Texas children have access to high-quality education. Taxpayers have continued to tell me they don't want property taxes to increase so we are letting voters know they will have a say in that this November," District 26 Representative Jacey Jetton, a Republican, said.

"The government should not be raising property taxes at a time when inflation is at a 40-year high and Texans on fixed incomes are already struggling to stay in their homes due to rising property valuations. The legislature has worked diligently to increase public education funding while shifting property tax burdens away from homeowners and towards state surplus revenues. Unfortunately, passage of this VATRE would absorb property tax relief meant for the homeowners of Fort Bend," District 17 Senator Joan Huffman, a Republican, said.

If the measure does not pass, Dr. Whitbeck said, "We're (going to) feel that. I'm (going to) be honest. We're (going to) feel that. So, we will be as careful about it as we can, but it's the extra things... The things they love and send their kids to school for. Those are the things we are (going to) look at."

A decision on cuts, security, and staff compensation is now in the hands of voters who will choose between lower taxes, or about an extra $200 on their annual bill.

"I think $17 a month is worth saving the lives of our children, making sure our teachers are still there to support our kids, making sure they have the resources they need to take care of our kids. It's important," Guzman Macal said.

"I'm going to stay optimistic that Fort Bend is a community that supports schools," Dr. Whitbeck said.

The district is holding informational meetings to educate voters about their choices, and they've committed to trimming their budget by another $23 million if the measure passes.

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