LOCKHART, Texas - Lockhart ISD is looking to offset a $710K budget deficit through a Voter Approval Tax Ratification Election (VATRE) this November.
The district's Board of Trustees unanimously voted Monday evening to call for the VATRE in order to generate $3 million to increase staff pay and address unfunded school security mandates.
If voters approve, the VATRE will decrease the school tax rate from $1.1123 to $0.9569, a savings of $496 a year for the average district taxpayer. If not approved, the tax rate will decrease to $0.9269, an average savings of $536 per year.
The VATRE would enable voters to put 3 pennies back into the maintenance and operations part of the school tax rate and generate enough funds to provide raises for all employees and add safety enhancements to all schools.
"After the Texas Legislature refused to fix school funding issues this year, LISD was forced into a budget deficit," Board President Michael Wright said. "Our history of financial conservatism has enabled us to offset the state funding loss by utilizing the district’s fund balance. However, this will not be sustainable beyond the 2023-2024 school year, thus requiring a VATRE."
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LISD says it had to cut staff raises and free school supplies from the 2023-24 budget after funding gaps from the State of Texas left a $710,000 deficit.
The district says it and nearly 150 other school districts – mainly in rural areas – are facing unprecedented levels of underfunding from the State of Texas this year.
School districts are funded first through local property taxes, and the remainder is provided by the state. The Texas Education Agency calculates a district’s state funding by estimating how much tax revenue the district should collect based on local property values.
This year, however, Lockhart ISD says county property appraisals haven’t kept up with the Texas Comptroller’s rising property value estimates, leading to a $3.1 million loss in state funding.
If November’s VATRE is approved, the district will have decreased its overall school tax rate by 38 cents since 2018.
The deadline to register to vote is October 10. Election Day is November 7.
Also on the ballot in November is Senate Bill 2, which would also lower school property tax bills for Texans by increasing the homestead exemption from $40K to $100K.