The Waco Independent School District board of trustees reviewed proposals, but stopped short of finalizing measurable goals Thursday on the use of the potential revenue from a proposed tax rate increase. The tax increase will go before voters in November.
The board gave notice of a 9-cent net tax increase last week, hoping to use the potential $8.5 million added state and local revenue to improve lower-grade reading levels and address behavioral problems in lower-performing campuses.
Sheryl Davis, WISD assistant superintendent for business and support services, presented cost figures for some of the requests made by teachers and principals in workshop meetings about the best way to use the potential new revenue.
Administration said dual-credit classes from McLennan Community College for all high school juniors and seniors would cost about $460,000 annually.
Costs for full-time aides in pre-kindergarten classes would be close to $1.5 million and for six additional reading teachers would be about $370,000.
The board is still discussing the tax rate, but tentatively approved last week a proposed 9-cent per $100 property valuation net tax rate increase, from $1.35324 to $1.443236.
The board cannot approve an amount higher than the proposed rate.
The state caps the maintenance and operation tax rate at $1.04 per $100 in property valuation, but allows voters to approve anything up to $1.17.
Superintendent Bonny Cain recommended designing a plan for each upcoming year to show voters how the new money would be used throughout the district with measurable goals from the purchases or efforts.
Trustee Angela Tekell said she wasn’t comfortable making new goals for the added revenue when the district wasn’t meeting its present goals.
“We do have goals that we’re not meeting with the present level of funding,” she said.
The board set a five-year strategic plan in 2012 with six goals, including increasing the graduation rate; recruiting, supporting and retaining quality employees; and increasing college and career readiness of students.
Tekell said she felt a year-to-year plan was too restrictive on school administration.
“I want to make sure we have a plan that has a lot of flexibility so our administration can do what’s best for our kids,” she said.
But Cain urged more focused goals to better market the tax rate hike to the voters.
Trustee Stephanie Korteweg agreed with Cain, saying that by choosing to look at literacy in the lower grades, they affect the overall graduation rate because student literacy is a hurdle for preventing drop-outs.
Trustee Norman Manning also weighed in saying regardless of the goals, some campuses required special attention and focus should be made to improve them using any resources available.
“(J.H. Hines Elementary) is a special a case,” he said.