Editors Note: The reporter for this article is a former Klein ISD student and her father is a KISD teacher.
Spring, Texas – June 4th, 2018: The Klein Independent School District has put forth a tax ratification election to increase its maintenance and operations tax rate by nine cents, making it $1.13 per $100 valuation.
Klein ISD residents over 18 are eligible to vote.
Regular voting takes place on June 16 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voting locations include several KISD elementary and intermediate schools. The full list is available here. Information about early voting on certain dates from May 30 to June 12 is also listed.
May 17 was the voter registration deadline.
The increase would affect district residents, with exceptions for persons with disabilities and residents over 65 years old.
What Will The Tax Ratification Election Affect?
The Klein ISD Maintenance and Operations tax rate has remained at $1.04 for the past 11 years.
The proposed $0.09 increase to the M&O tax rate means that the total tax rate per $100 valuation would be $1.52.
This includes the $0.39 Interest and Sinking rate, which would remain unchanged by the vote.
Residents may calculate their property tax increase estimate on the Klein ISD website. For example, a property valued at $200,000 would pay $13.13 a month if the 9 cents increase is approved by voters.
KISD Superintendent Dr. Bret Champion explains in two videos uploaded to the KISD website that the proposed TRE has come after a decrease in state funding for the district over the past two years as property values in the area increased.
Of the nine cents increase, the first two pennies from taxpayers would require the state to contribute more than double the taxpayer contribution (2+ pennies for every local taxpayer penny).
This is the result of a state funding formula, in which the Texas Education Agency says the first six pennies above the assumed local $1.00 tax rate contribution are ‘golden pennies’.
KISD already receives 4 of these pennies.
Dr. Champion goes on to explain that the first 6 pennies over $1.04 will fund current KISD projects, and the remaining 3 pennies will go towards additional security funding.
This includes more police officers at intermediate and elementary campuses, new police department equipment, secure entryway vestibules, entrance screening technology at certain campuses, and fencing for elementary campus perimeters.
If the vote passes, KISD will not have to readdress the M&O tax rate until 2021, according to Dr. Bret Champion.
If it does not pass, the district claims that budget cuts equivalent to 525 staff members will be necessary.
Support and Opposition
Although attendance was low, three TRE Community Conversation meetings were held across the district and were streamed live on Facebook, so that residents could ask questions about the vote.
Former Superintendent Dr. Jim Cain supports the tax increase. He says he understands the concerns of community members but thinks TRE will allow for the money KISD needs to fund important programs.
“The school district has always been a good steward of the taxpayer’s dollar. Money is not wasted in Klein ISD,” said Cain, during an interview on Monday.
He also referred to TXSmartSchools recognition of KISD as a ‘five-star’ district with high academic achievement and comparatively low spending per student.
However, some community members are opposed to the TRE. A recently created Facebook Group titled “It’s OK to Vote NO, Klein ISD!” claims it supports “Klein ISD tax payers who are already Taxed Enough…”.
When contacted, Amy Hedtke, who started the group, said that the tax rate increase could hurt economically disadvantaged students. Hedtke remarked that the district has a “distressing number” of students on reduced or free meal plans.
The Texas Education Agency reported that for the 2016-2017 school year, 40.7% or 20,998 of Klein ISD students were economically disadvantaged, meaning they were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch or other public assistance.
She went on to ask, “How can we expect students to feel safer at schools when their very homes are under attack for eviction over being unable to pay soaring property taxes?”
Joe Janczak, a former Klein ISD student and community member, is also against the M&O tax rate increase.
“[The increase] would be a catastrophe for not only homeowners, but business owners, renters…prices at local stores would rise too because stores pay property taxes and that’s reflected in the prices they charge,” claimed Janczak in an email yesterday evening.
He believes the issue is that the district “has not been diligent in managing the tax dollars they already have. For KISD to be asking for more tax money to spend reveals an appearance of incompetence at the administrative level.”
Klein ISD shares its financial information with the public, and past spending information may be accessed here.
William Pilkington, President of the Klein ISD Board of Trustees, is voting yes to the increase, and said, “We have to fund the things we believe in with our own money.”
Pilkington called the Tax Ratification Election “a worthwhile investment”, and asks voters to view the KISD website for more information on the TRE.
He claims the nine-cent increase will supply 28.8 million dollars more annually, $6.6 million of which will be used to accelerate the timeline of security projects.
The Spring | Klein section of the Community Impact Newspaper previously covered the KISD board meetings which led to the decision to hold a vote.