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South San Trustees Approve Proposed Tax Bump On 2nd Try

The South SAN ISD administrative building.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
The South SAN ISD administrative building.

The South San Antonio Independent School District will ask voters to approve a 13 cent property tax rate increase Aug. 14.

Trustees approved the proposed increase Wednesday night by a 5 to 2 vote.They tried to pass the measure two weeks earlier, but one trustee was absent and they didn’t have enough votes. State law requires a 60 percent majority of the governing board for a Tax Ratification Election.

District officials say drastic cuts will be required to eliminate a $6.45 million budget shortfall if South San residents don’t agree to the TRE.

“The district presently provides after-school programs for elementary school students. It’s a valuable program for parents that work. The question is, can the district really afford to continue to do that if this TRE does not pass,” said Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra on June 6. “We’ve had some discussions with Communities in Schools as to whether or not we can continue the program at, I believe, 10 of our schools. But that’s a $300,000 a year program to the school district.

“We believe in it, we believe it (provides) important services to students, the question is can we continue to afford it?”

Communities in Schools is a nonprofit that provides counseling, social work, tutoring and college preparation and application support to South San.

Trustees renewed its contract with the nonprofit Wednesday night on the condition that the TRE pass.

Arthur Williamson, an incoming senior at South San high school, told the board after the vote that he and his classmates wouldn’t know how to get into college without help from Communities in Schools.

“How do you expect me or any other student at our high school to do that on our own?” Williamson said. “The truth is we can’t. We don’t have the experience to. We also don’t have the money to drive all over the state visiting the colleges that most of us will be going to.

“With CIS, we can visit these colleges. Yesterday I visited (Texas Christian University) and (University of Texas)-Arlington in a comfy charter bus.”

Saavedra is recommending around $2.9 million in cuts, mostly through staff reductions, even if voters agree to give South San more tax revenue.  

He said the reductions are good fiscal management amid declining enrollment; the district has lost nearly a thousand students in the past four years, and is projecting a fall enrollment of around 8,600 students.

South San is the only school district in South San Antonio that hasn’t already passed a TRE to raise its operations tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17 per $100 of assessed value.

Saavedra said that effectively means the district has lost out on millions of dollars.

“I really feel that we’re 10 or 11 years behind,” he said.

If South San residents approve the 13 cent increase, district officials said a property owner with a $100,000 home would pay about $98 more in property taxes each year.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille