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Spring ISD trustees approve 8.9 million budget, will consider asking voters to approve tax increase – Houston Public Media

Spring ISD over X

Spring ISD Superintendent Lupita Hinojosa interacts with students.

Spring ISD trustees are considering asking voters to approve a property tax increase as the Houston-area school district seeks to close a multimillion-dollar funding gap for the 2024-25 school year.

Leaders of the school district, which serves more than 34,000 students north of Houston, have been working in recent months to offset an expected budget deficit of more than $25 million. They attribute it to inflation, declining enrollment and attendance numbers in recent years and the fact that Texas lawmakers have not increased the state’s per-pupil allocation for public schools since 2019. Other school districts in the Houston area and across the state are implementing similar austerity measures for many of the same reasons.

Spring ISD has decided to make $13.4 million in program and staff cuts for next year, including eliminating about 175 full-time positions. Also included in the $468.9 million budget approved by a divided school board Tuesday night is a provision that would allow the district to cover the remaining $12 million deficit while also funding 2% raises for all employees and additional raises for teachers with at least five years of experience.

The provision includes a potential voter-approved tax rate (VATRE) election in November, which is required under state law when a school district proposes a new tax rate that exceeds its voter-approved tax rate, which in Spring ISD’s case is $1.1092 per $100 of assessed property value. The district is proposing a new rate of $1.1592 per $100 of assessed property value, which would generate $20 million in additional revenue per year, according to a Spring ISD spokesperson.

Trustees will decide in August whether to accept the proposed tax rate and place it on the November ballot for approval by voters within the district boundaries.

“This is a difficult task under unprecedented circumstances affecting public education funding,” Spring ISD Superintendent Lupita Hinojosa said in a district news release. “But together, we are working to ensure every approved dollar works overtime to deliver equitable and excellent outcomes for every student in Spring ISD.”

RELATED TOPIC: Houston area school districts face millions in budget deficits due to lack of state funding

Racial minorities make up more than 95% of the student body in Spring ISD, where more than 88% of students are considered economically disadvantaged. Most community speakers at Tuesday’s board meeting spoke out against some of the proposed staff cuts, particularly as they impact band and choir programs.

The district is also eliminating campus administration, administrative staff, a bilingual program teacher and library assistants, among other cuts, while also reducing athletic and central office operating budgets.

RELATED TOPICS: Houston ISD parents protest districtwide job cuts and campus leadership changes

Two educators and property owners in Spring ISD spoke in favor of the proposed tax increase, which would allow the district to raise starting salaries for teachers from $60,500 to $61,500 while also implementing additional raises based on experience.

“It would lead to salary increases for teachers, improve teacher retention and attract more teachers,” Michael Wright said. “That, in turn, will improve our district.”

The trustees who voted against approving the budget without explaining their reasons during the board meeting were Board Chair Justine Durant and Board Secretary Kelly P. Hodges. Carmen Correa abstained.

If Spring ISD trustees decide not to vote on the proposed tax increase in November or voters reject the increase, the district would face a $12 million budget deficit and would have to further cut its planned spending, said Ann Westbrooks, Spring ISD’s chief financial officer.

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