Emily Donaldson / Rivard Report
Voters on Tuesday rejected a tax rate increase for South San Antonio Independent School District by 57 percent of the vote.
Trustees called the tax ratification election in June to increase South San’s property tax rate by 13 cents. In Texas, school districts are largely funded by property tax revenue. With an increased rate, which was proposed to become $1.58 per $100 of property tax valuation with voter approval, South San would have collected an additional $6.3 million in revenue. This financial boost would have proven helpful at a time when South San faces a $6.4 million budget deficit in the coming school year.
Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra told reporters that the district will now have to cut about $3.5 million from the budget in additional programs and roughly 30 staff positions.
The district has already cut about $3 million through the attrition of 20 non-teaching positions and 22 teachers. This staffing change helps adjust to a smaller student body as enrollment has declined significantly in recent years. The district projects it will serve 8,600 students next year, down from more than 10,000 four years ago.
At a gathering for supporters of the rate increase on Tuesday night, Saavedra addressed the crowd, lamenting the election results.
“We didn’t pull it off,” Saavedra said. “The community has spoken, and I think we have to respect that.”
The superintendent, who plans to retire when his replacement is named, said he believes this result will have a “real impact” on the search for his successor, adding that some interested applicants may have viewed the election as a gauge for the level of community support within the district.
Any superintendent candidate wants to come into a district to implement new initiatives, Saavedra said, and now that the tax rate increase failed to pass, his successor won’t have that ability with such a restrained budget.
“The challenge is … [not] being able to advance more opportunities and programs for our kids,” Saavedra said.
The tax rate increase election came at an off-time, and election turnout was expected to be low. Missing the well known election cycles in May and November, only 8 percent or roughly 1,860 of the district’s 22,354 registered voters cast a ballot during the two weeks of early voting and on election day.
Saavedra said the tax rate increase opposition got its contingent out to the polls better than the proponents, noting that turnout ended up being higher than he expected.
The majority of voters cast ballots during the early election period and rejected the measure. Pro-tax rate increase advocates made gains on election day, with about 53 percent of voters supporting the increase, but ultimately it was not enough.