Reporting Bud Gillett
MCKINNEY (CBSDFW.COM) - It was an election that triggered passionate arguments on both sides and set the stage for an unusually heavy turnout. On Saturday the voters in the McKinney ISD voted to tax themselves to the maximum that the law allows.
“I can’t even explain how happy I am,” said Jennifer Gray, who with her friends are celebrating tonight. They’ve been working to support district since they learned there would be an election. “Never doubted for a moment that it was a priority for our city and for the parents here, but ultimately I believe the children of McKinney ISD are the true winners.”
The election was for a TRE or tax ratification election. Trustees determined the school district didn’t get enough money back from the state to keep from running a deficit, so it decided to raise the property tax rate to the maximum and trigger the ratification vote. The district claims it needs about $10.5 million dollars to balance the budget… raising property taxes here would give it about $13 million. Opponents said it was too much.
“If we were the only good school district in Collin County they’d have an argument to raise it; but we’re not,” said opposition organizer Derek Baker. He argued money could be better spent—that out of 1022 school districts in Texas only eight are at the state maximum, which is where the McKinney ISD will now be. He believes streamlining the administration is needed and raising taxes makes the city uncompetitive. “You increase the tax rate on people and you drive people away. That’s exactly why people are moving in droves out of California into Texas.” He said the city of McKinney already has the highest property tax in Collin County, now it is one of three communities with the highest school property tax rate as well.
But TRE supporters called such claims misinformation. “No one wants taxes to go up,” said Tony Nori adding, “And we’re going to pay more than the average and we’re for it because we need the programs for the kids. That’s why we moved here.”
Nori’s wife, Nancy, is heavily involved in school and PTA activities. “I’m in these schools every day and I see what’s there, and I see these fantastic programs for these kids. And I don’t want to see them go away. And unfortunately the misinformation is out there that it’s all about administrative salaries and that those can be cut. They can’t. And what’s going to get cut is programs for the kids.”
But in theory those programs are no longer at risk. The cost to residents? A $250,000 home would run about $22 more a month. In the end the vote passed by a 3-2 margin with more than 14 percent of the voters turning out.
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