Richardson ISD trustees voted Friday to postpone the school district’s previously-called tax ratification election (TRE) until November. Merging the vote with the general election, they said, will encourage higher voter participation and save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The delay will give RISD officials more time to inform community members about reasons for requesting the property tax increase.
“Since we called the TRE in early June, we have heard from numerous community stakeholders the desire to have more time to understand this subject than a Sept. 4 special election would allow for,” Board President Justin Bono told me.
When they initially discussed raising the maintenance and operating (M&O) tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17, trustees hoped to gain early voter approval for hiring additional teachers and security personnel, increasing salary for teachers and staff, raising hourly wages for custodians, and making other immediate improvements nearer the start of the school year. Delaying until November, they said, would make planning and budgeting more difficult.
“The original decision on the Sept. 4 date was grounded in the board’s desire to get resources to our students and staff as soon as possible,” said Bono. “Now, though, after hearing from our community and fully understanding the cost of this special election, the positives of taking action to move the election to the November general election date are clear.”
Estimated cost for the special election was $400,000.
RISD’s budget, approved on June 21, assumes approval of the increase. And if the TRE fails at the ballot box?
“As we said publicly during the budget process, it would require approximately $10 million in cuts to balance the budget,” said Bono, “none of which will be easy.”
If the tax increase passes, the overall rate will bump from $1.39 to $1.52 and the impact will be an additional $296 in taxes for the average $281,000 home in RISD. That doesn’t account for any increase in home values, which RISD officials argue won’t benefit district coffers due to the complicated system of school finance in Texas.
Each district across the state sets its own rates, but RISD would not be the only district with an M&O rate at $1.17. Plano, Coppell, Wylie, McKinney, Grand Prairie and many other districts in the area collect the top rate, as do hundreds of others around the state.
Election Day is Nov. 6.