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Superintendent Message (Aug. 16, 2016)

Board calls for bond and tax elections in November

Aug. 16, 2016

Dear SAISD Staff,

Last night, our Board of Trustees called for two elections that will place two separate proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot – one a $450 million bond proposal, the other an increase to our Maintenance & Operations tax rate.

The board’s actions follow Aug. 1 recommendations by a Blue Ribbon Task Force to pursue both proposals.

If the bond proposal passes, it would fund renovations at 13 aging schools, replacing infrastructure systems that in most cases are more than 40 years old, upgrading science labs and expanding other classroom spaces to meet recommended state guidelines. The renovations would enable the District to provide facilities that are more equitable with what is offered in neighboring school districts.

The 13 schools are just some of the many schools in our District that need renovations. We will need additional bonds in the future to address more schools.

At Monday’s meeting, the Board also voted to set the Maintenance & Operations tax rate – the part of the tax rate that raises money for day-to-day operations – from $1.04 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.17. By law, school districts cannot raise their operations tax rate above $1.04 without triggering what’s called a Tax Ratification Election, allowing voters to decide on the M&O tax increase.

The proposed 13-cent increase would generate $15.6 million in additional tax revenue, which the state would then more than match at an estimated $16.5 million, for a total of $32.1 million in annual revenue.

Unlike bond revenue, this source of revenue can be used for a range of operational expenses, including upgrades to the classroom learning environment, such as new lighting, new flooring and other enhancements. Classrooms also would be equipped with interactive furniture that facilitates student engagement in collaborative learning.

The additional revenue also would assist the District in providing technology to meet today’s educational standards. Classrooms across the District would be equipped with new computers, handheld learning devices, interactive whiteboards and other equipment. Additional data and power access would be provided to support the increased technology, along with other improvements to the classroom environment.

With over 90 percent of our students living in poverty, many of our families cannot afford summer enrichment and academic programs or tutors during the school year. The TRE also would provide additional funds that could be used for teacher compensation for afterschool and summer programs that target the approximately 40 percent of students in need of additional academic support, as well as allow for expanded extracurricular offerings for our 6th- through 12th-graders -- our data indicate that one of the characteristics of our top-performing students is that they are involved in extracurricular activities.

Later this week, we will launch a dedicated website, www.saisd.net/bondTRE2016, where you can find more detailed information about the proposals’ impact to the total tax rate and to tax bills. If both proposals pass, the District’s total tax rate is projected to increase by 25 cents over an estimated five years – 12 cents to pay off the bonds and 13 cents on the Maintenance & Operations side.

We will host community meetings about the proposals in the coming weeks, and I will share those dates with you in a future message.