Property owners in the Houston Independent School District will see their tax bills rise after trustees Thursday narrowly approved the first tax rate increase for operations in a dozen years.
The board voted 4-3 to raise the tax rate by 3 cents to fund a budget that includes raises for employees and millions of dollars for a controversial school reform program.
“I know there are going to be a lot of people unhappy about the motion,” trustee Paula Harris said. “I know that if we didn’t raise taxes that we can’t afford to educate children.”
The rate increase was lower than expected. HISD’s financial chief, Ken Huewitt, had recommended a 4-cent increase to fund the budget the board approved in June.
That amount would have given the district a cushion of several million dollars.
The board instead approved a 3-cent increase and took $5 million from savings to balance the $1.6 billion operating budget for this school year.
Trustee Harvin Moore proposed the revised plan, questioning whether the 4-cent increase included “fluff.”
“I wouldn’t call it fluff. I would call it planning,” Huewitt said. “It costs to be great all over.”
HISD’s new tax rate is $1.1867 per $100 of taxable value.
That means the owner of a $200,000 home with the typical exemptions should pay $1,720 in HISD taxes this year. The owner of the same-priced home last year would have paid about $40 less.
See here and here for the background. There was some drama over whether or not the vote would be taken at all on Thursday or if it would be delayed – see School Zone for the details, but the short story is that Trustee Manuel Rodriguez, who would have voted for the increase, was absent. Trustee Greg Meyers, who said he would have voted against the increase, was also absent; it’s not clear if that’s what precipitated the vote going forward or if it was a matter of clarifying the whip count. Anyway, the increase will help fund a 2% pay raise for HISD employees, which is good and needed, and a continuation of the Apollo program, which let’s just say remains a source of dispute. HISD still has one of the lower tax rates around, and for most people the difference probably won’t really be noticed. But you know how it is with these things.