Despite losing hundreds of students in recent years, a North Texas school district is asking voters in November to approve a massive property tax increase—the largest single-year tax hike in its history.
If their November ballot measure (TRE) passes, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD’s property tax rate for annual operations (M&O) will increase 11 cents to the maximum allowed under state law. CFB Citizens United is a grassroots group that has formed to oppose the tax increase.
Here is what many CFB ISD taxpayers may not know.
Rising appraisal values mean families and businesses will pay higher school tax bills at the current tax rate. That means that – even if voters reject the rate increase – the district will still collect $15.5 million more in revenue when compared to last year.
Increasing the tax rate on top of rising appraisals will result in a “double” tax increase, and give the district an additional $22.9 million in tax revenue on top of the $15.5 million they’re already guaranteed to collect.
So if the TRE passes – between higher appraisals and a higher tax rate – the district will collect $38.4 million more in revenue. The result would be a huge windfall in new taxes, despite losing 600 students in recent years. That decrease in students is enough to fill one and a half elementary schools!
In order to justify the unnecessary tax increase, TRE proponents are spreading several half-truths and outright myths in order to mislead voters.
They claim property taxes for homeowners over 65 years of age are capped. But those who do not own their homes – including those on fixed incomes paying rent inside assisted-living facilities – will see their rental rates increase. Senior citizens will also pay higher prices for all local goods and services as businesses also pass along the costs of higher taxes to consumers. Apartment dwellers will also pay higher rents to their landlords, who pass the cost of higher taxes onto their tenants.
An outright myth is the claim that – if voters reject the TRE increase – the district will have to “eliminate teachers and programs.”
That’s just not accurate. Without raising the tax rate, the district’s budget continues to grow every single year, despite having over 600 fewer students today than it did five years ago. That’s partially because the district has not laid off a single teacher or administrator despite having fewer students. If the TRE fails, property tax bills will still increase, providing CFB ISD more money than it did the previous year.
Another blatant falsehood is that – if voters reject the TRE increase – teachers and other staff will “not get pay raises.” As previously stated, the district will collect $15.5 million more in revenue if the TRE fails, while less than $5 million is needed to cover raises already built into the budget approved by the school board. Not only have they been approved, they’re already being paid to all staff precisely because the district is guaranteed to have the money.
Part of the “teachers won’t get their raises” falsehood is the corollary argument that pay raises will “drain the district’s reserves,” or rainy day fund.
Aside from the fact the district doesn’t need to dip into its reserves, it currently has a healthy balance of $80 million, or 140 days of operating costs. This is fully 33 percent more than the state requires and is twenty times more than what’s needed for pay raises.
Since only 40 percent of the $15.5 million will be recaptured by the state’s “Robin Hood” funding system and sent to other districts, CFB ISD without the TRE will have more than enough revenue to keep its current staff and provide pay raises across the board.
The simple fact is – while the wealthier taxpayers may be willing to pay more to CFB ISD for no good reason – the most vulnerable in the community will be hit the hardest by a double tax increase. A tax rate increase is simply unnecessary.
Many of the district’s own struggling families will be hurt if the TRE passes. Over 16,000 CFB ISD students – and their families – are on “free and reduced” lunch. This means nearly 10,000 households are near or below the poverty line. Excessive property taxes will force some out of the district and will literally take food off their tables.
It’s appalling that district officials are so brazen in their attempt to extract more money out of the hands of local families. But it’s downright shameful that pro-TRE voices feel compelled to mislead their own community on the facts.