EducationLocal NewsTaxes & SpendingGarland ISD Grappling With $32 Million Deficit After Voters Reject Tax Increase

The deficit will not affect payroll this fiscal year, but the district says it could “compound in years forward.”
November 30, 2020
In August, Garland Independent School District (GISD) tried to make a deal with taxpayers. They lowered the district’s interest and sinking tax rate, hoping voters would pass an increase in the maintenance and operations tax rate.

The measure did not pass.

GISD Proposition A — which would have caused an additional $42 million to flow into the district’s treasury via property taxes and new state funds — failed with 52 percent against and 48 percent in favor. 

It was the first time GISD, which includes the North Texas cities of Garland and portions of Rowlett and Sachse, had placed a voter-approval tax rate election (VATRE) on the ballot.

This means that taxpayers will pay a lower overall tax rate than they would have if the VATRE had been successful. The school board already lowered the interest and sinking rate, which they cannot reverse.

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On the day after Election Day, while the district thanked voters who voted for the measure, it did not comment specifically on the outcome.

“It’s been a historic election. We want to thank everyone who showed their support for Garland ISD and our Tax Rate Election,” GISD said on its Facebook page. “As we move forward, we will continue working with the community to do what’s best for students and staff.”

Tiffany Veno, director of communications for GISD, confirmed to The Texan that the failure of the VATRE will not impact payroll this year, though campuses and departments across the board are being asked to find ways to cut their budgets by 12 percent.

Veno stated that there is now a $32 million deficit for the current fiscal year that “can compound in years forward,” but the district has been “very good stewards” of taxpayer resources and would do what it takes to care well for the district’s teachers and students.

At the special school board meeting in which the VATRE was unanimously passed, GISD Superintendent Dr. Ricardo Lopez stated that the election would have “very big implications” for the district.

GISD will pay less on its debt this year. Including interest, the district paid $69 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, while this year it will pay $66 million. According to the most recent data available from the Texas Bond Review Board, the district was $737 million in debt as of August 2019.

However, according to GISD’s chief financial officer, Dr. Brent Ringo, the adjustment of the interest and sinking tax rate does not affect how much the district pays toward its debt or how much interest is accrued.

If the VATRE had passed, the funds would have gone toward teacher raises and other projects including “expanded Pre-K offerings, additional academic and fine arts opportunities, and more,” presiding Trustee Johnny Beach said when the school board passed the proposal.

Editor’s note: The piece has been updated with more specific and clarifying information regarding the nature of the district’s debt and the terms of the proposed bond.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."