The 2020 general election ballot for Arlington residents includes a voter-approval tax rate election that could increase the property tax rate by 8.84 cents if approved.

The increased rate would cost the owners of average-value homes an additional $162.70 each year while granting Arlington ISD access to about $56 million in additional funding, $18 million of which will come from an increase in state funding. The proposed property tax rate will be used to increase teacher and staff pay to be more competitive and provide instructional opportunities for students, according to Arlington ISD’s website.

If approved, the tax rate would be set at $1.3871 per $100 of assessed value.

This election marks the first time AISD has placed a voter-approval tax rate election on a ballot. Its current tax rate ranks as the 17th lowest among 21 Tarrant County school districts.

Arlington ISD’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the election item during an Aug. 13 meeting after reviewing a presentation and an efficiency audit report conducted earlier in the year.

Chief financial officer Darla Moss presented the changes in school district funding made during the 86th Texas Legislature session in 2019. The legislature, through House Bill 3, enacted a reduction in school property tax rates while changing how state and local funding is allocated to districts.

The efficiency audit found that AISD’s total operating budget totaled $9,428 per student, while its peer districts totaled $9,945 per student during the 2019 fiscal year. Nine peer districts were selected by the auditing firm based on size and tax rate comparable to AISD, according to the audit.

When compared to its peer districts and state averages, AISD receives less revenue per student. AISD also spends more per student on direct instruction, according to the audit.

During the Aug. 13 meeting, Trustee Aaron Reich said an outside agency completed the audit even though it wasn’t required at the time.

Following Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s state of disaster declaration March 13, school districts are not required to complete an efficiency audit for up to two years before calling for a voter-approval tax rate election.

“We have nothing to hide,” Reich said.

He said the district has created millions of dollars in efficiency over the last few years in order to be fiscally responsible. The audit’s findings showed that AISD prioritized and focused on students while keeping the budget lean.

The board has worked to reward and maintain a quality staff across AISD but staff members have left for another district because of salary, he said. Even if the tax rate was approved, the board will continue to maintain efficient budgeting.

“This isn’t a decision that any of us take lightly,” he said.

Trustee Polly Walton said she was very optimistic that the community would continue to support AISD. Even citizens without children in the district benefit from the district because it contributes to rising property values.

Trustee David Willbanks said it was time to present a tax rate election to citizens after AISD came out on the wrong side of House Bill 3, spending an additional $36 million for district teachers in the last fiscal year.

“There’s no more putting off,” he said. “The time is now.”

@colby_farr

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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