Lawmaker upset with FBISD tax-rate hike
Union not satisfied with workers' raises
By ZEN T.C. ZHENG Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
During the budget public hearing and the regular meeting that followed when trustees adopted the budget, several trustees praised the budget and the 3-percent pay raise for employees. However, not all meeting attendees agreed.
Trustee Steve Smelley described Fort Bend ISD's property tax rate as low among districts in the Houston area, with Katy Independent School District topping the list.
Katy ISD's proposed 2008-09 budget of $524.9 million is based on the same tax rate as last year or $1.52 per $100 of valuation.
Smelley said, "We've been good stewards of our taxpayers' money and invest it wisely. That allowed us to the things we do and still save our taxpayers money when we can."
Texas Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, said he was "disappointed" with Smelley.
Howard pointed out that the district was raising its property tax rate unnecessarily while other taxing jurisdictions, such as Fort Bend County and the city of Sugar Land, have lowered their rates.
"As I walk around the district on an annual basis, the biggest complaint I have heard has been property taxes," Howard said. "Mr. Smelley, I appreciate your comparison of Fort Bend ISD's tax rate with school districts in the area. But I remind you that our tax burden is a function of the tax rate and the appraisals. Our appraisals have been going much higher than most school districts in the state."
Resident Chris Calvin lashed out at school officials for not "maximizing public input."
Both Calvin and Howard took issue with the district's public hearing scheduled at 5 p.m., an inconvenient time for those who were just getting off work in Houston to fight through peak-hour traffic.
"You are setting your tax rate at 7 and you are having a hearing at 5, how much time do you have in taking into consideration any comments you'll get?" Howard asked Smelley before being interrupted by trustee Bob Broxson who announced that Howard's three-minute speech time was up.
Resident Carlos Cain told trustees that he was "mad" at the 2-cent tax rate hike and that district officials had in the past denied to him that there was surplus money.
"I don't have an objection to teachers getting raises that they should've gotten a long time ago. What I have objection to is $100 million that y'all have stashed in a trust fund and y'all denied, denied and denied," Cain said. "If you have a fuel deficit in your budget, don't focus on the homeowners who are already struggling."
Board members, who fully pushed the record bond debt last year, criticized the lawmaker (Howard) for opposing this increase to help service the bond debt he too supported at the end of '07. All of this while the district is sitting on a near 100 million in surplus dollars.
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2009 FBISD Tax Hearing (On YouTube)
CLICK HERE FOR THE 2009 FBISD CONTROVERSIAL TAX HEARING (YES THEY ARE RAISING THEM AGAIN--see petition of over 500 district taxpayers asking for board accountability) --In case anyone missed it they raised the property tax rate again (4th time) in 2010 and more than likely will do so again in 2011 facing another projected 15-20 million dollar budget deficit, according to some media reports. ***NEW*** ..Petition TO STOP THE GSTC (Global Science Museum being planned at the district central office--near $30 million dollar project that superintendent Jenney is pushing): http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopthegcst/ (see update below on this apparently ending this project after 2 years)