Brownsville ISD rolls out TRE proposal

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A view of a Brownsville ISD school bus Wednesday, May 25, 2022, after school dismissal. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The Brownsville Independent School District on Tuesday began rolling out its effort to get the Voter Approved Tax Ratification Election on the Nov. 7 ballot approved.

The VATRE asks voters to approve 4.3 enrichment pennies in Tier Two state funding, which would generate $10.4 million in additional revenue that the district would then use to fund 2% employee raises.

Under state funding formulas, 70% of the money would come from state sources and 30% from local sources, according to information provided Tuesday at a workshop meeting of the BISD Board of Trustees.

“Our goal is to maximize state aid so that we don’t have to maximize our local aid,” Trustee Daniella Lopez Valdez, chairwoman of the BISD budget committee, said after the meeting.

School districts across Texas and here in the Rio Grande Valley are holding tax ratification elections as a way to pay for employee raises after the Legislature failed to provide additional funds. Gov. Greg Abbott tied pay raise proposals to school voucher-like programs that would allow parents to use taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition.

A special session of the Legislature on school finance is scheduled in October, with $4 billion in state funds up for grabs.

The Legislature did cut property taxes by a record $18 billion, which ended up making tax ratification elections an option for providing raises.

BISD has already adopted a 2023-2024 tax rate of $1.030964 per $100 valuation, nearly 18 cents lower than the rate of $1.20869 for 2022-2023.

When it approved the budget the board also ordered the VATRE for Nov. 7 to gain voter approval to restructure the tax rate to pay for employee raises.

Superintendent Rene Gutierrez called the election a golden opportunity for voters to approve the restructuring and make the employee raises possible at a time when taxes have already been lowered substantially.

Without VATRE approval, BISD would have to leave the 4.3 enrichment pennies and $10.4 million on the table, he said.

Lopez Valdez said the TRE represents the best chance to give employee raises without raising taxes.

“I’m asking our community to go out and vote ‘yes’ to the TRE in order for us to retain our amazing 6,000 employees and give them a well deserved raise,” she said.

The new $1.030964 per $100 valuation tax rate would result in a savings of $641 in BISD property taxes for the owner of an “average” home valued at $156,250, information presented at the meeting indicated.

The calculation figures in a homestead exemption of $100,000 for 2023-2024 approved by the Legislature but pending statewide voter approval in the Nov. 7 election, compared to a $40,000 homestead exemption in 2022-2023 when an average home was valued at $125,000.

Without VATRE approval taxes would fall an additional $16, the information indicated.