Wylie Citizens’ Group Calls for Conservative School District Budget - Texas Scorecard

As school districts across Texas begin working on budgets for the upcoming year, members of a local conservative citizens’ group are calling on Wylie school board trustees to rein in spending and make the hard choices necessary to keep residents’ property tax burdens from skyrocketing.

“We the people are fed up and have had enough of school districts and superintendents and school boards who aren’t willing to listen to us as parents and taxpayers,” said Michael Schwerin, a local parent and board member of We The People Wylie and Murphy, a group dedicated to promoting conservative values.

Schwerin’s comments came during Monday night’s Wylie Independent School District board of trustees meeting.

Ahead of the meeting, We The People WAM encouraged its members to attend and speak in favor of the district basing its budget on the no-new-revenue tax rate, which keeps homeowners’ property tax bills relatively flat:

Your tax bill is set primarily by these seven elected officials. Two-thirds of your tax bill goes to Wylie ISD. Make no mistake—they CAN set the property tax rate at the No New Revenue Rate (which would mean you would pay essentially the same dollars to Wylie ISD this coming year as you are now).

 

They will tell you that they can’t because school finance is complicated. It may be complicated, but it is an excuse being made by seven elected officials that are not willing to stand up and lead—making the hard choices that it takes to prevent runaway spending.

The conservative group noted that both the City of Wylie and Collin County, where the North Texas school district is located, handle their budget process starting with the revenue-neutral property tax rate.

Yet they said Wylie ISD staff “presented $10 million in new spending without your elected officials questioning the timing of these new expenditures or asking the staff to reconsider them for this year.”

Just before Monday’s regular meeting, a representative from TASBO (Texas Association of School Business Officials) gave trustees a presentation on school finance that emphasized how recapture limits districts’ ability to lower tax rates to the no-new-revenue rate.

“We all can do better,” Schwerin said during public comments. “We are not subject to recapture, so we could look at the no-new-revenue rate.”

He told trustees they hadn’t lowered their proposed tax rate enough to offset rising property values, which means tax bills will go up, and said the conservative approach would be to lower expenses and offset new expenditures with cuts.

“This past year, we haven’t been considered as partners; in fact, we’ve been considered as enemies,” he added. “We’re here to ensure the future of our children. … We want to work together.”

We The People WAM member Jeffrey Keech told trustees during public comments, “Schools exist to educate students.”

Yet he said the percentage of school district staff who are dedicated classroom teachers has declined from about 75 percent to 45 percent as the number of administrative staff ballooned.

“That’s a sign of growing school bureaucracies and out-of-control budgets,” he said. “If you can’t implement a no-new-revenue tax rate, it’s because the bureaucracy of this school district is too large and the district wastes money on frivolous things.”

Dawn Shallow, another We The People WAM member, told school board members she was upset that all seven had attended a conference hosted by the National School Boards Association—the group that last year compared parents to domestic terrorists—at a cost of at least $18,000 of taxpayers’ money.

She noted that four board members are up for re-election in November.

Places 1, 2, 5, and 6—currently held by Stacie Smith, Mitch Herzog, Heather Leggett, and Jacob Day—will be on the November 2022 ballot.

Schwerin told Texas Scorecard that We The People WAM is “committed to fielding a full slate of conservative candidates” who are willing to stop the district’s excess spending, as well as ensure that the board and district operate in an ethical and transparent manner.

He also said the district’s budget has gone up 25 percent since the 2018-19 school year, while attendance has only risen 10 percent.

“At this point, the board has provided no real guidance to the administration on the budget,” he said.

“The teachers are great, and it can continue to be a great district, but we just need to ensure that we keep the strong conservative values that made it a destination district,” Schwerin added.

According to the district’s latest academic performance report, 65 percent of Wylie ISD students read at or above grade level, which is higher than the statewide average of 45 percent.