Pearland ISD will receive an additional $7.4M following Nov. 2 voter-approval tax rate election

posted on November 04 - 11:10 AM
By Joe -

By Andy Yanez | 5:25 PM Nov 3, 2021 CDT | Updated 5:28 PM Nov 3, 2021 CDT

Following Proposition A in Pearland ISD passing with more than 61% of voter support, according to unofficial results for Brazoria County, the district is celebrating the financial support that will allow it to focus on remaining competitive with neighboring districts, according to district officials.

With the passing of Proposition A in the voter-approval tax rate election, or VATRE, the district’s property tax rate is set at $1.3152 per $100 valuation for the 2021-22 school year and will net PISD an additional $7.4 million in state and local funding. All results are unofficial until canvassed; PISD will canvass election results Nov. 15.

“I’m super excited,” PISD board President Sean Murphy said. “I think it is a big win for both the district and parents, teachers, just everyone in the community to be able to get more funding back from the state.”

The district was facing financial struggles created by issues outside of the district’s control, and the additional funding approved by voters will help alleviate those struggles, PISD trustee Crystal Carbone told Community Impact Newspaper on Election Day.

The two biggest causes for the district’s financial issues are the increase in the property values within the homes in PISD’s region and a decrease in enrollment numbers in the district, especially at the elementary school level, Murphy said. PISD Superintendent John Kelly mirrored Murphy’s explanation in the district’s financial struggles.

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“Such funding heavily depends on total student enrollment and on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students,” Kelly said in an email. “Since our enrollment has flattened and since we have a lesser percentage of economically disadvantaged students, we receive far less funding from [ESSER] grants and from different types of state funding.”

When it comes to a decrease in enrollment numbers specifically, people are not moving out of Pearland, which means the housing for newer families that have younger children to move in is lower, and the cost for first time buyers and similar issues is higher, Murphy said.

Because of that, Murphy said he cannot tell if the decrease in enrollment numbers at PISD is an anomaly or if it will continue in the coming years.

Murphy said he has seen different trends with enrollment numbers since first joining the board of trustees seven years ago. When he first joined, the district was seeing enrollment numbers grow year over year. In 2021, the district is seeing a bottleneck at junior high schools where they are at capacity, which he does not expect to see continue, he added.

As for the $7.4 million approved with the VATRE, the big focus for the district will be on employee retention, Kelly said.

“Employing outstanding teachers and staff in this area of the state means that we must be competitive with salaries and benefits,” Kelly said. “86% of our annual budget goes to teacher and staff salaries. Frankly the passage of this proposition should help avoid major personnel cuts and salary freezes.”

The new property tax rate is now in effect for the 2021-22 school year and beyond, Kelly said. However, a proposed constitutional amendment put forth by the state legislature could further lower taxes by raising the homestead exemption, he added. Whether the amendment passes will depend on voters again, this time in May 2022.

In the meantime, PISD will receive the $7.4 million over the course of the current school year and possibly in a “settle-up,” which is an end-of-fiscal-year process for reconciling a school district’s state aid payments, according to the Texas Education Agency, Kelly said.

With the passing of Proposition A, PISD is guaranteed the local and state revenue will be present when the district needs it, he added.

“This election was about the support the community has for such a great school district,” Murphy said. “I think by them turning out and voting to support us and give more funding goes to show you how much this community really does care about its district.”