This November, Central Texas voters in Pflugerville Independent School District are being asked to approve a $367.6 million bond package, including nearly $44 million to build housing units restricted to use by the district’s teachers.
Other school districts in Texas and across the country have also floated the idea of purchasing or constructing teacher housing.
Earlier this year, Austin ISD considered adding a $50 million bond proposal to the ballot for November, but trustees put the plan on hold to seek public input. A presentation prepared for the June 2022 Austin ISD board meeting identifies a number of taxpayer-funded teacher housing programs implemented throughout the country, including in California, Wisconsin, and New York. In oil-rich West Texas, Buena Vista ISD, Fort Stockton ISD, and Midland ISD have approved funding for teacher housing in recent years.
The Pflugerville ISD bond package is divided into six components and would pay for a number of different projects. The complete list of proposed bonds, designated Propositions C-H, includes the following:
- C – $190,280,00 for school renovations, new buses, and security upgrades
- D – $54,000,000 for technology upgrades
- E – $3,000,000 for renovations to the high school’s performing arts center
- F – $400,000 for stadium improvements, including a new scoreboard and upgrades to the communications system
- G – $76,000,000 for construction of a new career center
- H – $43,924,000 for teacher housing
Voters in Pflugerville will also decide whether to approve the district’s purchase of “attendance credit” from the state and a tax rate above the maximum established by law.
Proposition A would authorize the district to make payments to the state by purchasing attendance credit to offset tax revenue collected in excess of the amount specified by the state’s recapture program known as “Robin Hood.”
Proposition B asks voters to approve a tax rate that would generate $290 million in revenue, or 14.8 percent more than the $252.6 million in taxes the district imposed last year. Although Pflugerville ISD does not disclose these figures in its promotional material about the voter-approval tax rate election (VATRE), they can be determined by multiplying the district’s taxable property value in 2021 and 2022 by the actual and proposed tax rates for each of these years.
Last year, the taxable property value in Pflugerville ISD was $18.2 billion, and the imposed tax rate was $1.388 per $100 of property value. The board adopted this rate after voters rejected their proposed rate of $1.408 by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin.
This year, taxable property value increased to $22.9 billion, and the board is proposing a tax rate of $1.2646 per $100 of property value. Although the district boasts this tax rate is the lowest proposed in 30 years, it’s 13.8 percent higher than the no-new-revenue rate of $1.1109. If voters reject the proposed tax rate, it will be set at $1.2246, which would generate nearly $281 million in taxes collected.
The proposed spending comes at a time when public school enrollment has been declining and there are fewer teachers in the classroom.
According to the Texas Education Agency, enrollment dropped by 1.21 percent across the state between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years. During the most recent school year, Pflugerville ISD had 25,486 students enrolled, a decline of 3.46 percent from two years ago. When the current school year began, the district had 65 teacher vacancies, representing more than 3 percent of 1,897 available positions.
To explain these challenges, district officials point to issues arising from the pandemic, competition from charter schools, and the rising cost of housing.
In June of 2019, the median price of a home in Pflugerville was $260,000. Just three years later, that number has skyrocketed to $470,000. Interest rates on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have also increased from a low of under 3 percent at the end of 2020 to nearly 7 percent today.
Despite the precipitous rise in housing costs, several residents expressed skepticism about the proposal for teacher housing in response to a post on the district’s Facebook page.
Belinda Perez commented, “Shouldn’t we invest in [teachers’] salaries? Instead of housing for a few?!?!”
Lisa Hall wrote, “Teacher only? That makes it rough on married teachers or those with kids. Also, why should the district be in the landlord business?”
Cassandra Contreras, another Pflugerville ISD resident, pointed out that Superintendent Doug Killian is paid a salary of more than $250,000 a year. According to the Texas Education Agency, Killian’s salary for the 2021-22 school year was $278,281.
Voters may weigh in on the eight Pflugerville ISD propositions on November 8.