It’s time to get out and cast your vote in the Galveston ISD tax ratification election.
This is the last week for early voting through Friday at the GISD Support Center, 3904 Ave. T, and the Galveston County Justice Center, 600 59th St., from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
After that, voters will have to visit four locations in their particular precincts across Galveston Island and one on Bolivar Peninsula on Aug. 26.
The ballot asks voters to raise the maintenance and operations tax rate (it funds salaries, supplies, school upkeep) at GISD by 2 cents.
In reality, regardless of the outcome of the election, school tax rates are going down. The district refinanced its bonds and saved taxpayers more than $8 million, which allowed it to cut the interest and sinking tax rate (it pays for large-scale projects like schools and athletic facilities) by 3 cents.
The GISD board of trustees called this election for several reasons.
The main reason is to give teachers and staff a 3 percent pay increase. The fact is GISD is behind other school districts in the area regarding starting salaries.
The district gives rookie teachers $44,700, compared to $47,000 in Friendswood ISD, $48,000 in Texas City ISD and $50,000 in Pearland ISD.
A 3 percent increase would bring GISD up to $46,100, thereby making the district more competitive in attracting teachers.
Another reason involves the school finance system. The district is considered property wealthy, aka Chapter 41, by the Texas Education Agency and each year it gives back more than $13 million in tax revenues to Austin to be redistributed to property poor schools, aka Chapter 42.
One way to raise revenues without having it redistributed to other schools is to enact the golden pennies rule, which allows districts to raise its maintenance and operations tax 2 cents without threat of these particular funds being recaptured by the state.
The GISD trustees were also thinking ahead as most educational circles foresee a big change coming to the school finance system.
The golden pennies will raise the district revenue expenditures per student, a figure legislators historically refuse to lower when they’ve been required to revamp how schools are funded.
The 2-cent maintenance and operations tax increase could mean even more money for the district in the future.
It boils down to this: a for result will mean a 1-cent tax decrease and teacher and staff increases, making the district more competitive in bringing great teachers to Galveston and retaining them.
An against result will mean a 3-cent tax decrease and no raises for local educators.
What makes this election rare is taxpayers will save money at the polls. It’s part of GISD administrator’s efforts to be fiscally responsible in reducing staff numbers to match student enrollment numbers, cut costs where it can and run a tight ship.
That’s something everyone can applaud. The least we could do is to take the time to cast at ballot.
Go to www.gisd.org/election2014 for poll locations, detailed charts and figures and to submit a question to district administration.