There are 24 days until early voting opens for the Nov. 3 election, and the Waco Independent School District board of trustees is gearing up to convince voters to approve the 5-cent net tax increase per $100 property valuation.
At Thursday’s meeting, the administration presented a 10-minute informational video about the Tax Ratification Election and its benefit to both the school district and the voters.
The board plans to use the video when it visits neighborhood associations, churches and nonprofit goups during the next month to appeal to voters and ask them to approve the rate increase.
Through colorful graphics and personal testimonies from all the trustees, it explains how the higher tax rate allows the district to earn an additional $8.2 million to be used for literacy instructional and behavioral support.
Superintendent Bonny Cain said she loved the video and will allow the trustees to present the same tax rate information to every group.
In August, the board approved an overall tax rate of $1.40 per $100 of property valuation, up about 5 cents from the former rate of $1.3532. The maintenance and operations rate was raised by 13 cents from $1.04 to $1.17, but the debt service rate was lowered from .3132 cents per $100 of property valuation to 23 cents.
The administration plans to use the money to hire pre-kindergarten aides and reading teachers for elementary and middle school classes.
On the same November ballot as the rate increase, voters in Texas are being asked to approve a $10,000 increase in the homestead exemption, from $15,000 to $25,000.
Increasing the homestead exemption would lower property tax bills, with the state reimbursing local districts for the lost revenue.
The average home value for 2015 was set at $99,675, and the average exemption would be $27,150, putting the 2015 average taxable value for Waco ISD homes at $72,525.
If both the exemption and the tax rate increase pass, average homeowners will pay about $1,015.
Trustee Larry Perez said the board needed to make an effort to visit South Waco multiple times to ensure that the voters in the area were reached.
Cain agreed, saying she would attend meetings of any organization that would allow it.
“I would like the opportunity to talk to them about how this will help them more than anyone else,” she said.