DSISD Budget: ISD holds money meeting
The Dripping Springs ISD Board of Trustees discussed the 2018-19 budget and proposed tax rate at their Monday June 25 meeting. The budget was the first item on the agenda.
The proposed tax rate is the same as the current rate: $1.17 per $100 property value for Maintenance and Operations and $.35 per $100 for Debt Service for a total rate of $1.52 per $100 property value. This tax rate has not changed since 2014.
The proposed budget estimated total yearly revenues at $85,227,595, and total operating expenditures of $87,817,588. With a current reported enrollment of 6,782 students, that breaks down to an expenditure of $12,949 per student.
DSISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing cited two key reasons for monetary pressures on the district.
The first reason was 31% growth in the past five years, and continuing rapid growth. By 2020 he believes each of the four elementary schools will have enrollment north of 900 students each; and that the high school will be at 120% capacity, requiring the addition of portables.
The second reason was the ongoing “recapture” of DISD tax money by the State of Texas, in what is commonly referred to as “Robin Hood.” Because DSISD is categorized as a “41” district, essentially wealthy, the State of Texas will “recapture” an estimated $8,948,625 from the district in 2018-19.
DSISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing opened the meeting with a presentation of the current status of the school district, it’s achievements, and its needs. “I wise person once told me you better love what you do, because when it gets difficult you still have to do it,” Gearing said. “I’m passionate about public education… we don’t turn kids away…we do an exceptional job…I’m proud to be the superintendent of DISD. I love my job.”
Gearing’s presentation was followed by a period of public comment, during which 10 people spoke against the proposed budget and tax rate. The common theme was a request for the board to roll back to property tax rate (in part to help area housing affordability), and that DSISD spending was extravagant and excessive. One of the public comment speakers, Artie Axelrod, told the board “you’re building Taj Mahals, not schools.”
Some of the persons who spoke against the budget, were also a plaintiffs in a current lawsuit contesting the recent bond election, which authorized $132 million bonds for DSISD.
The lawsuit makes the allegation that the results May 5 school bond election, were not the true outcome of the election. Citizens for Excellent Education in Dripping Springs, said in a press release, “The current results of the May 5th election recount canvass reflect that the bond passed by 37 votes. However, 51 qualified DSISD voters residing in Travis County were not notified of the election, and election officials made no provision for them to vote. Moreover, election records reflect that dozens of Hays County voters were assigned to the wrong school district and received voter registration cards that were printed with an incorrect school district listed, including DSISD voters, and taxpayers, who were improperly assigned to Hays CISD and Wimberley ISD. These two groups of voters alone number multiples more than the 37-vote margin of victory.”
After the budget meeting, Gearing issued a statement to the Century News about the lawsuit.
“As discussed at the June 25th meeting of the Dripping Springs ISD Board of Trustees, an election contest lawsuit has been filed to challenge the successful outcome of the District’s May bond election,” Gearing said. “Last night, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to retain counsel in order to file a lawsuit to validate the outcome of the bond election. Through this process, the District hopes to quickly and decisively resolve the disputed allegations in the election contest. While litigation presents a temporary interruption, we believe it will ultimately provide resolution and is a necessary step to the continued progress for which this District is known. Throughout the process, we will continue to welcome input to help shape our work – which we can all agree must remain focused on providing the highest quality educational and professional environment for our students, staff, and the Dripping Springs ISD community.”
The adoption process of the budget will continue with a series of mandated events, including a July 25 certification of taxable values, and an August Texas Education Agency (TEA) notice.