Frisco ISD is the fastest growing school district in Texas, with more than 58,000 students. The upcoming Bond and Tax Ratification Election (TRE) is important to all Frisco voters and deserves our time and attention.
Until recently, I fell into the category of “well-meaning but still uninformed voter.” I’m definitely not a school finance expert, but I sincerely wanted to understand this critical issue before the upcoming election on November 6. I spent hours digging into the resources provided by FISD so that I could understand the ABCs of TRE!
If you’re feeling lost like I was, rest assured, we have the facts for you right here. Early voting begins on October 22 and election day is November 6. Please be informed and vote!
Why is FISD holding a bond and tax ratification election this November?
FISD is asking voters to approve funding to build and repair schools, add technology and security measures, reduce class size, increase student intervention, expand academic programs, and more. Key proposals include:
- Construction proposals: construction of four new schools (one high school two middle schools, and one elementary school), purchase of land for future school sites, expansion of existing swim facility, construction of a multi-purpose auditorium for the performing and visual arts, and more.
- Student opportunity proposals: class size reduction at all levels, update and refresh of older campuses, resurface elementary playgrounds, expand early childhood and pre-k programs, and more.
- Safety and security proposals: retrofit interior classroom glass to be bullet resistant and add campus emergency lockdown technology, additional personnel for student intervention, upgrade and update security cameras, servers, and fiber, equip buses with bird’s eye view technology, and more.
- Recruitment and retention proposals: more competitive compensation, class size reduction at all levels, additional professional campus and district support staff, and more.
- Future-ready learning proposals: replace and add classroom and campus instructional technology and update technology at the Network Operations Center, class size reduction at all levels, expanded choice programs, and more.
- Maintenance proposals: maintain regular preventative maintenance, repair and replacement cycles for buildings; retrofit campuses with LED lighting, upgrade and refresh 15 year old campuses and more.
Click here for more detail on the proposed impacts for each of these key areas.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is specifically proposed for my neighborhood schools?
Interested in knowing in what areas your home campus/es will be impacted? Click here.
What does TRE stand for and what does it mean?
TRE stands for Tax Ratification Election. Frisco ISD is proposing an increase to the maintenance and operations tax rate. By state law, voter approval is required for this measure.
What is a bond election?
A bond election authorizes a school district to issue debt to pay for building new facilities, renovations of existing facilities, and large infrastructure upgrades.
So, the upcoming election will include both a bond election and a TRE?
Yes, the November 6, 2018 election will include both of the following propositions:
- The bond election to authorize FISD to issue $691 million in debt to finance the construction of new schools, renovations to existing facilities, security measures and more
- The Tax Ratification election to raise the operations portion of the property tax rate by 13 cents.
If the TRE is approved, would property tax rates increase by 13 cents?
No, the net impact would be a 2 cent overall decrease to the total tax rate. This decrease would happen through a “tax swap”.
Our property taxes to FISD are actually made up of two separate taxes, which create two distinct “buckets of money” for the district. The first tax rate, currently set at $1.04, is the M&O tax (maintenance and operations). It pays for salaries, utilities, supplies, and general maintenance of buildings. The second is the I&S tax (interest and sinking), which pays for debt generated by bonds. It’s currently set at $.42.
The proposed TRE would increase the M&O tax rate by 13 cents. Simultaneous with the approval of the TRE, the district would reduce the debt portion of the tax rate by 15 cents. This reduction does not require voter approval and would offset the proposed increase to the operations portion of the tax rate, resulting in an overall 2 cent decrease.
So the vote is to increase the tax rate but the tax rate will actually decrease?
Yes, that’s a little confusing. If you want to dig deeper into the mechanism of the tax swap, there are plenty of great resources (start on page 27 of this link).
But how can FISD lower the total tax rate? I thought the whole point of this is that the district needs more money?
To summarize at a really high, non-expert level, go back to the two buckets of money: M&O (maintenance and operations) and I&S (interest and sinking). The critical thing to understand here is that the money in these two buckets is NOT interchangeable. Funds raised through the M&O tax cannot be used to pay debt service, and those raised through the I&S tax cannot be used for maintenance and operations needs.
Currently, FISD needs more funds in the maintenance and operations to accomplish the proposals listed above. Conversely, for a variety of reasons, the district has the ability to lower the tax rate on the I&S portion and still meet its debt service obligations.
The bottom line is that the vote in November moves funds from the I&S bucket into the M&O bucket which allows them to be used in areas where they are most needed. If you want more detail on why the I&S rate can be decreased, the reasons are easy enough to digest from the FAQ provided by the district.
If Frisco is the fastest growing city in America and our tax base is increasing, why does FISD need more money? Shouldn’t the growing tax base provide the necessary funds?
The key here is the funding formula for school districts. The I&S bucket does benefit (or generate more revenue) when the tax base grows (in the way you would expect if you are asking this question). However, under the funding formula, the M&O bucket does not benefit when the tax base grows due to the funding formula.
The I&S bucket has benefited due to Frisco’s growth, allowing FISD to pay down more debt each year without increasing the tax rate. This has created capacity in the I&S bucket. The M&O bucket, in turn, must support the growing district but does not benefit directly from the growing tax base.
The proposed tax swap would help the district “swap” funds between these two portions of the total tax rate, as discussed in detail above. Click here for more info.
Who can vote?
All registered voters who live in Frisco ISD, regardless of city.
WHEN and WHERE can I vote?
Early voting is Oct 22nd – Nov 2nd. During early voting, voters in both Collin and Denton counties may vote at any polling location in the county in which they reside. Election day is November 6th. On that day, Collin County voters may vote at any location in Collin County. Denton County voters must vote at the location in Denton County associated with their precinct.
How can I learn more?
As Frisco voters, we’re fortunate to have so much information at our fingertips! FISD has hosted a series of town halls since September addressing specific aspects of the proposal. Videos of all of these presentations are available here.
In addition, this “Resources” page has a tremendous amount of detail to digest, as well as contact information if you have further questions.
Get out and vote on November 6, Frisco!