This month, we’ll talk about our school taxes, RISD revenues and teacher salaries. On Aug. 9, voters will go to the polls to consider a constitutional amendment to increase the general homestead exemption for school taxes from $5,000 to $15,000 on a single family residence.
This is in addition to the optional 15 percent homestead exemption granted by our RISD board of trustees. Thus, for a qualifying residence valued at $100,000, only $70,000 will be considered taxable property value, an increase of $10,000 if the amendment passes.
And of course it will, so let’s look at what will happen to RISD revenues.
Currently, 42,044 residences qualify for the increased exemption. At $10,000 per home, that means $420,440,000 will be removed from the RISD tax roll. At the 1997-98 tax rate of $1.5698 per $100 of value, school districts revenues will decline by $6,600,067.
Fortunately, due to the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the RISD staff, the legislature concluded that taking that much money away from school districts might be a bit of a problem. So they granted a two-year, hold-harmless period in which the amount the state recaptures for “Robin Hood” will be reduced by about $6 million.
Whew, close call. So we’re almost even…for now.
As it turns out, our community is thriving, and our tax base is growing at about 8 percent actual growth per year. Using conservative projections averaging about 4.5 percent, RISD revenues look fairly stable for the next five years, in spite of the legislative tax uncertainty. So after two years of study and research, we’ve decided to…give teachers a big raise!
First, we granted a 4 percent increase calculated on base salary instead of midpoint. Teachers have been begging for this improvement for years. Each 1 percent pay raise costs RISD about $1.7 million system-wide.
Then we raised starting first-year salaries from $25,000 to $26,500 for teachers with a bachelor’s degree. Salaries for teachers with master’s and doctorate degrees went up commensurately, too.
In addition, we corrected the system so teachers hired in at rates below the starting point would automatically be brought up even with new hires.
These raises, plus excellent benefits, cell phones and fewer periods to teach at the secondary level, mean RISD teachers are at the top of the competitive ladder in the Dallas/Fort Worth area!
We believe our teachers are worth it. They’re the best!