Superintendent's Spotlight

Superintendent’s Spotlight, by Mike Kuhrt

 

Hello Parents and WFISD Staff,

 

I hope you are enjoying your summer!

As you probably know by now, we are headed into an exciting, but probably turbulent, time of change. We are gearing up to join with the community to find good, solid direction for each of our facilities.

Our two community groups have been working hard for months, studying and discussing our District’s needs, finances, limitations and opportunities. On May 23, their ideas were presented to the school board. As we requested of them, they outlined options for a one-high-school scenario and a two, equally-sized-high schools scenario.

They also offered ideas on consolidating elementary schools to complement these changes. You can read a summary here.

When it comes to deciding what to do with our aging high schools and our numerous small elementary schools, it’s no secret that we have kicked the can down the road for years. Decades, even. Even our middle schools, despite recent renovations and additions, are jammed with students, and they need attention, too.

To be fiscally responsible, we must make decisions now. We can no longer afford to maintain, renovate, insure, clean, update, wire and repair so many old buildings.

For every year we wait to make these decisions, maintenance dollars disappear down a seemingly black hole of needs. A research team added up all the current costs to bring our buildings up to 2008 standards, and the sum was astronomical -- $170 million! And these millions only jerryrig current buildings to the standards we set 11 years ago when we built Scotland Park and Southern Hills Elementary Schools.

Yet our schools need more than simple repairs, and our children need more than simply a (non-leaking) roof over their heads. Our world is plunging ahead in ever-increasing speed with technological advances. The students of WFISD — our children! – are the ones missing out as they sit and learn in old buildings that pre-date computers, the Internet, cell phones, Amazon, Twitter and a myriad of recent inventions.

Luckily, I have some good news on this front. Not only will we be discussing new options for our schools this summer, we are now asking the community to approve a new tax rate in a tax ratification election. This voter-approved change will bring in $1.4 million in additional annual revenue that will help us fix our schools while simultaneously lowering WFISD’s overall tax rate. This fiscally wise move is called a “Swap and Drop.”

Early voting for this tax ratification election is underway through June 11; election day is June 15.

Many Texas school districts have done this tax “swap and drop” successfully.

Here’s a mini lesson on school budgets. In Texas, school district budgets are funded by two separate tax rates. One is called the Interest and Sinking Rate (I&S for short), which is used to pay WFISD’s bond debt. The other is a Maintenance and Operations Rate (M&O for short), which pays for all other operating expenses, including teacher salaries and maintenance of school buildings and school programming.

Well, over the years, WFISD has made fiscally responsible refinancing decisions and done a good job paying off much of its debt. As a result, the District is now in a position to lower its I&S tax rate by as much as 18 cents.

Then, in an effort to provide more local control of District revenue, WFISD could increase its M&O Tax Rate by 13 cents, if voters approve.

This will increase the net operating revenue we will have by $1.4 million annually. It will give us greater flexibility to spend those funds where most needed. That money would be used to provide much-needed repairs and maintenance to existing District facilities.

So, while we’re asking for voters to consider raising the M&O tax rate by 13 cents, that hike will be offset by dropping the I&S tax rate by 18 cents, for a net decrease of the school tax rate by 5 cents. Can you see why it’s called a “Swap and Drop”?

So, even with a lowered overall tax rate, WFISD will still receive an additional $1.4 million in operating revenue that can fuel an increase in part of our budget.

WFISD’s revenue per student still ranks in the bottom 3 percent in the entire state. Of the 1,017 school districts in Texas, only 32 receive less revenue than we do. In some cases, other schools receive thousands of dollars more per student than our District does.

That’s why we must search for the most fiscally responsible options available to us.  We believe this is one option that will complement our other efforts.

Please vote! Again, you can vote early through June 11 at Sikes Senter Mall or at the Education Center. Election day is Saturday, June 15, with many polling locations throughout the city.

A lot of decisions will be made this summer. If we want to put a bond on the ballot in November, we must have a bond plan ready in August to meet legal deadlines. Please stay connected with us over the summer months to stay up-to-date on the options floated by our community teams and then how board members craft those options into a bond plan. We will continue to update our website throughout the summer with the latest news and developments.

Thank you for all you do for our students and for supporting us in the many ways you do. I wish you an awesome summer doing all your favorite things, and look forward to seeing you again in August!

 

Sincerely,

Mike Kuhrt

 

Learn more about the Tax Ratification Election here.