AP NEWS

Fort Bend ISD budget report calls for property tax increase next year

February 25, 2019

A two-cent property tax increase for Fort Bend ISD tax payers is expected in next year’s budget, according to financial reports reviewed by trustees at the Feb. 18 school board meeting. District officials say increased revenues are needed to fund debt for a new $180 million high school included in the district’s $992 million school bond approved by voters last November.

The new high school was expected to open in 2024. However, after re-zoning plans to balance enrollment between overcrowded high schools to ones with lesser enrollment were put aside, trustees opted to fast-track opening the new school. The decision meant the tax rate would be increased sooner rather than later, as had been promised by trustees during the bond election.

The tax rate is expected to increase again in the following year’s budget, but district officials say they don’t expect to go over the three-penny increase included in the original bond election estimates.

“I could see us taking two pennies this year with all three coming in 2020 and I do think that will help us,” Fort Bend ISD chief financial officer Steve Basset told trustees. “I still feel really good about not going above three pennies in future years given the scenarios we’ve seen. So, I do think this is good news.”

Property values are expected to increase approximately five percent next year, according to budget reports provided to trustees.

A two-cent increase to the property tax rate would mean the average tax bill of $3,367.47 would increase to $3,589.40, based on an average taxable value of $267,866, which represents a five percent increase over last year’s average taxable property value of $255,111 as noted in truth-in-taxation disclosures posted on the district website. The current Fort Bend ISD tax rate is $1.32 per $100 of taxable property value.

District officials told trustees state revenues are expected to increase as enrollment numbers continue to rise.

Notable expenditures yet to be detailed include operating costs to hire teachers and other staff members for the new James Reese Career and Technical Center scheduled to open next year. District officials recently halted legal action involving re-locating the bodies of 95 convict leasing workers found on the property last year. According to vendor payments posted online, more than $356,000 was paid since July 2018 to the Houston law firm Rogers, Morris & Grover, LLP in connection with the lawsuit and other legal expenses.

The preliminary budget report was not included in agenda documents posted online. More details related to the district’s budget estimates will be provided as information is made available.