Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM

McKINNEY (CBS 11 NEWS) – A debate in the Collin County seat is taking place about how much homeowners should pay in school taxes.

The McKinney ISD is proposing an increase that would take the district’s tax rate up to the highest level allowed by state law. It’s called a Tax Ratification Election, and the voters need to approve the tax increase the school board has already put into place. The showdown for the district is Saturday’s election; early voting ends Tuesday.

The issue splits not just the city but even neighbors on the same street.

Derek Baker opposes the tax increase, Suzy Givens supports it.

“They’re not living within their means,” says Derek Baker, President of the Collin County Conservative Republicans.  “We simply want them to live within their means like other individuals, families, and businesses do every day.”

Givens counters, “I feel it’s not that much money a month, about twenty dollars for the average person and it’s definitely worth it for our kids’ education.”

The issue is school money the Texas Legislature was expected to refund, but it did not fully restore, to McKinney’s schools and others in Texas. So the district says it either needs more money or it will have to drastically slash school staff.

MISD supporter Jennifer Gray believes the district can’t weather further potential cuts. “They’re going to have to make tremendous cuts; they’ve said at the top of the block at least 290 teachers and administrators are going to lose their jobs.”

Baker disagrees. His supporters organized a tax protest rally last night to draw attention to the issue – and to the fact today is the last day of early voting.

He claims the tax hike will take in $2 million more than the district’s shortfall this year.

“Why are they asking for ove two million dollars over their own projections show that they need?” said Baker “The answer I’ve gotten is they just want to put it in reserve.”

Gray likes the idea of shoring up the reserve account.  “If we went to just what we needed there wouldn’t be any money to put into the savings account. As much as I don’t want to pay more taxes I feel that this is the best way to handle it.”

He also claims its top-heavy with administrators.   “Administrative jobs and salaries have increased at a significantly greater clip than students and teachers since 1999 in McKinney.”

The district couldn’t provide anyone to talk on camera, but in published documents Board President Curtis Ripee claimed the percentage of the budget paid to administrators is slightly lower than the state average. He denies administrators are paid too much.

Baker counters the city of McKinney already has the highest property tax rate in Collin county, and now ISD will, too. “And those two coupled – I love McKinney and I’m going to stay living here – we will have the highest tax burden of any city in Collin County,” he claims.

Baker claims two Collin County districts, Allen and Prosper, are already at the state maximum.

McKinney isn’t the only district seeking voter approval: Plano will have a tax ratification election in November.

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