Teacher raises proposition in Round Rock ISD gains attention ahead of election

The first day of early voting is less than two weeks out, and a proposition for Round Rock ISD already has the attention of voters.

Proposition A is a Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election, also called a VATRE. If passed, it would raise teacher and staff salaries by three percent.

That's on top of another three percent raise for teachers and two percent for staff that the board of trustees already approved earlier this year.

Pass or fail, Round Rock residents will see taxes go down, but there's a disagreement on how this proposition is framed.

If voters check "yes" this fall, Round Rock ISD Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez said Proposition A will provide the pay raise it needs to stand out from competing districts.

"Our starting salary is at the bottom of the pack in Central Texas, so we want to make sure we take care of our teachers and staff," said Dr. Azaiez. "If we need to be able to recruit or hire, we also need to be able to attract quality staff and teachers."

The pay raise would also help compensate for inflation.

Not only is everything more expensive now, but Round Rock ISD said its basic funding from the state hasn't changed since 2019.

"Despite the fact that inflation went up by 14-15 percent, our legislators in the state did not increase that basic allotment," said Dr. Azaiez

If passed, the proposition would set a tax rate of about 0.91 cents per $100 of taxable value.

That's about 14 cents less than it is now at about 1.06 However, if it fails, the tax rate drops another three cents.

"The VATRE, or the Prop A, is really asking for three golden pennies," said Dr. Azaiez. "We are already reducing the tax rate even with those three pennies by 14 pennies, and if our voters decide they don't want this, then it will drop again another three pennies."

Opponents argue the proposition actually raises taxes by three cents.

"The taxes are going down, but it's because the state of Texas put in additional money to buy down the property taxes and now, they're trying to raise it from what the state lowered it," said Don Zimmerman, the treasurer and executive director of the Travis County Taxpayer Union.

While Zimmerman is all for teacher pay raises, he's asking voters to check "no."

"The taxes are already too high here," said Zimmerman. "You know, we're losing small businesses and people who rent. They simply can't afford the taxes the way they are now."

Zimmerman thinks the district should pay for raises without taking additional taxes.

"It's the district itself that underpays our teachers because they put all kinds of expenditures ahead of our teachers, and that's wrong," said Zimmerman.

Round Rock ISD said it uses about 85 percent of its budget for payroll, and the rest goes towards things like water and electricity bills or maintenance.

The first day of early voting is October 23. Election day is November 7.