This week, early voting began throughout the state of Texas. Polls will be open through Nov. 3 and then again on Nov. 7 for Election Day. While it is an “off-year” election – meaning there are no presidential or congressional races being decided – there are still a number of important ballot initiatives that will have a long-term impact on the future of our state.
Most of these ballot propositions are proposed state constitutional amendments, which passed the legislature earlier this year and now must be approved by voters statewide. Of the fourteen proposed amendments, five have the greatest potential to directly benefit young people across the state. In addition, three local initiatives here in Dallas County will provide greater resources to students in three of our region’s school districts.
Statewide Constitutional Amendments
Proposition 2 – Property Tax Relief For Child Care Providers
Prop. 2 allows Texas cities and counties to provide a property tax exemption for providers of early childhood education. This exemption can range from 50 to 100% of the local property taxes owed and has the potential to reduce overhead costs for this critical industry substantially. Those cost savings can then be invested in things like more resources for our youngest learners or higher pay for early educators. This supports our region’s workforce of today and tomorrow, specifically by providing more parents with quality child care options that will allow them to reenter the workforce. Local governments will still need to approve the reductions in their respective regions, but elected officials like Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins have signaled their support for giving child care providers the full exemption should the proposition pass.
Proposition 4 – Property Tax Relief For Texas Homeowners
Prop. 4 increases the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, decreasing the amount most homeowners owe in property taxes. Lower property taxes allow more Texas families to stay in their homes, reducing mobility between schools which can have a negative impact on academic achievement.
Proposition 5 – Research Funding For Texas Public Universities
Prop. 5 will increase funding for state universities by utilizing the interest and investment earnings of Texas’ Economic Stabilization Fund, a savings account for the state often referred to as the “Rainy Day Fund.” The University of Texas and Texas A&M systems already receive similar dividends through the state’s Permanent University Fund. This proposition allows the rest of our state’s public universities, including our regional partners in the University of North Texas system, access to a similar revenue stream that can then be used to support students and staff once higher education institutions meet certain milestones related to research activity.
Proposition 8 – Broadband Expansion Across The State
Prop. 8 will create a “Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund” of $1.5 billion to expand internet access across the state. As demonstrated by the pandemic, a reliable internet connection is increasingly crucial in order for students and families to access educational and economic opportunities. Yet currently 7 million Texans lack broadband in their homes. This new fund will help create the infrastructure needed in order to reach these Texans. Learn more about gaps in broadband coverage in your region by viewing our Internet Access Dashboard.
Proposition 9 – Pension Increase For Retired Teachers
Prop. 9 moves $3.3 billion from the state’s general revenue fund to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), allowing TRS to provide certain retired Texas teachers with a cost-of-living adjustment to their monthly pensions. This is a critical issue for our current retirees who are contending with recent inflationary pressures. It also demonstrates to the current generation of teachers a commitment to funding their retirement, and to continue recruiting and retaining the effective educators our students deserve.
Local Ballot Propositions
Barring changes in funding formulas made in the state legislature, local school districts can only increase funding in two ways, both of which require the approval of a majority of voters within their district limits. One is a bond issuance, which allows school districts to take on debt, which can then only be used to pay for capital projects (new buildings, technology, etc).
Duncanville ISD is seeking a $170 million bond package through the passage of two local ballot propositions:
- Proposition A expands Career & Technical Education facilities at Duncanville High School and funds the maintenance of critical district infrastructure like HVAC systems, roofs, school buses, and safety and security measures.
- Proposition B funds technology enhancements, including interactive monitors for all schools and district facilities.
While local ballots will refer to this package as a “property tax increase,” it in fact only maintains the local tax rate at its current level.
As opposed to a bond package, in order to provide salary increases for teachers and other staff, a Voter Approved Tax Ratification Election, or VATRE, is necessary. This November, two Dallas County school districts are seeking to pass VATREs.
Cedar Hill ISD residents have the opportunity to generate $6.8 million annually for the district, which plans to invest the funds in three primary areas:
- Safe & Secure Classrooms: Funds will be used to hire nine armed police officers, keeping the district in compliance with HB 3 (88R), which requires armed security on every campus.
- Recruit & Retain Quality Staff: The VATRE will also provide funding for annual stipends for all teachers and support staff – especially important when the district’s educator attrition rate is significantly higher than the statewide average.
- Protect Financial Stability: Inflation has hurt the district’s ability to maintain raises provided in previous school years; new revenue will sustain the district’s track record as a responsible steward of taxpayer resources.
Lancaster ISD is also seeking an increased investment in strategic initiatives that promise to benefit children. By passing their VATRE, Lancaster ISD officials will be able to:
- Increase Employee Compensation with an annual stipend.
- Recruit & Retain Effective Educators by offering more competitive salaries.
- Maintain Financial Excellence by ensuring compensation increases don’t create budget deficits.
Finally, it’s important to note that while both measures will nominally increase local property tax rates, if combined with the passage of Proposition 4, most homeowners in these districts are still likely to have a lower overall tax burden on their primary residence.