KELLER (CBSDFW.COM) – A tax battle is brewing this week in the Keller Independent School District, pitting education supporters against residents who feel they have no tax dollars left to give.
Voters will decide Saturday on a proposed tax rate increase of just 13 cents, but it would offset $16 million in revenue the district says it needs but isn’t getting from the state.
The battle lines are setting up all over the community. Large white signs in opposition to the increase are surrounded by smaller blue signs urging support for schools.
Automated calls are going out to resident nightly, and final fund raising efforts and community meetings are planned all week.
From his home Tuesday, Brian Borner said he envisioned high schools looking more like colleges with tiers of students and overworked instructors if the tax doesn’t pass. His daughter Karen plays in the band, one of the programs that stands to lose at least five positions, alongside at least 29 others that could be cuts from music and the arts. “That’s what I think these programs do. They help round the student out. They insure that they are successful.”
But residents like Michelle Wood, aren’t ready to pay more and raise the tax rate to the second highest in Tarrant County. “You get tired of giving more. You get tired of them putting their hand out saying more more more, without stopping. We’re in an economic crunch.”
Wood is acting as treasurer for KISD Families for Fiscal Responsibility. She said her family is still struggling to overcome job layoffs in the technology industry, and the $260 tax increase that the average $200,000 home would incur was just too much to give.
“Sometimes, you have to say no.”
The group has criticized KISD for some of its building in recent years. KISD now has 38 campuses, and a new elementary school set to open in the fall is under construction now.
Superintendent James Veitenheimer though said that comes from growth that has seen the student population double in just 10 years.
The lack of money he said is not from overspending, but from a flawed funding model at the state level. While he couldn’t advocate for the tax, he admitted that its failure would have an effect on the education students receive in what has been a highly regarded district. “You cannot take 13-17 million dollars out of a school district and add 800 kids and expect it’s going to look anything like it does right now. And that’s the situation we have.”