As election day for the Galveston Independent School District tax ratification election approaches, it’s crucial to know how this may impact the school district and why the GISD board of trustees called for voters to make this important decision.
GISD has seen a variety of financial challenges ever since Hurricane Ike did extensive damage to Island schools.
The biggest challenge was the loss of $7.4 million in cuts by the Texas Legislature after it removed $5.4 billion from education funding.
Another big obstacle is the requirement to send millions back to the state each year because of GISD’s designation as a Chapter 41 school district, also known as property wealthy.
This past school year, the district sent more than $12 million back to the state for redistribution to Chapter 42, also known as property poor districts, something GISD is fighting as part of a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency.
GISD gives millions of local tax money away despite educating more than 70 percent economically disadvantaged students.
Educational leaders foresee the school finance system being declared unconstitutional, which will require legislators to overhaul how schools are paid.
In the meantime, this has required GISD officials to make some creative financial decisions, starting with the refinancing of bonds to save the district and taxpayers $8 million.
This will allow the district to drop its interest and sinking tax rate 3 cents.
Another way to keep more money in Galveston is to access the “two golden pennies” rule, which allows a district to raise its maintenance and operations tax rate 2 cents without having to give any of the revenue raised — about $1.1 million — back to the state for redistribution.
Galveston residents need to approve using these golden pennies in this election in order to provide this revenue to GISD.
The GISD board of trustees designated the additional revenue to increase teacher and staff salaries.
The trustees felt it needed to offer a competitive wage for GISD staff.
The district is behind area districts in what it offers to new teachers by a noticeable amount, with Pearland ISD offering $50,000 a year to new teachers compared to GISD’s $44,100.
Part of the reason for the district falling behind is a salary freeze four years after Ike as the district recovered from the storm and dealt with the loss of hundreds of students.
Not being able to offer a comparable wage can affect the district in being able to attract the best teachers to the island and retain them.
The facts are simple: A vote for this proposition will allow the trustees to give teachers and staff raises, while giving taxpayers a 1-cent decrease.
A vote against the proposition will mean no raises and a decrease in the school tax rate by 3 cents.
I encourage everyone to cast a vote in the Galveston ISD election.