Just one resident turned out to ask Waco ISD officials about their plans for a proposed tax rate increase up for approval during the Nov. 3 election.

That didn’t stop Superintendent Bonny Cain, Board of Trustees President Pat Atkins and other board members from extolling the benefits students will see if voters approve the money the district needs to implement several student-focused plans.

The district plans to hire enough teacher aides for every prekindergarten and kindergarten classroom and half of the first- and second-grade classrooms; hire more middle school reading teachers; expand its Brazos Credit Recovery program that prepares older middle school students for high school; and keep its eight-period day at the high schools.

The district also plans to offer McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College dual-credit classes at no cost to juniors and seniors; implement short-term behavior classrooms for disruptive students; expand its Saturday diversion classes; and offer health and social work services to students on campus.

Cain said she has not heard much push-back against the tax increase, so the sparse turnout Wednesday night is not her main concern.

“I’m more afraid that people who support it won’t get out to vote,” Cain said.

Tony Abad, the one resident who attended the meeting, said he supports the tax. But he is concerned that voters will get lost in the complexity of the tax structure. He suggested district officials focus their presentation on their plans for what to do with the money.

“If you just spell it out like that, they are going to see how to hold the district accountable and what it means for their neighborhood school,” Abad said.

The district plans to develop progress measurements on the initiatives they hope to fund and present them once a year.

The Board of Trustees sets two tax rates for property owners in the district, and if voters approve, those rates will go up by a combined 5 cents per $100 of property value.

The board approved a 13 cent increase to the district’s maintenance and operations rate, from $1.04 per $100 of property value to $1.17. Voters will choose whether to approve that increase.

The board also decreased its debt service tax rate from 31 cents per $100 of property value to 23 cents. It can change the debt service rate without voter approval.

$8.2 million estimate

The district estimates it would raise $8.2 million more per year with the net 5 cent increase. About $5.2 million of that would come from local taxes, and about $3 million of that would come from a state match.

Adding another layer of possible change to the tax rate, voters also will be asked on Nov. 3 to approve an increase in the state’s homestead exemption, which will effectively lower property taxes on homes.

If both the district’s tax rate and the homestead exemption are approved, the school tax for homeowners with homes valued at $314,000 or less will go down next year, despite the school district raising its M&O tax rate.

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