School tax hike proposal spurs debate in Keller

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on June 14, 2011 at 10:12 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 15 at 12:44 AM

KELLER — State cuts to public education have put Keller schools in the spotlight this week. It's one of the first districts in Texas to ask voters for a tax increase to make up for the funding shortfall.

And Keller is drawing fire from one of the top officials in the state.

There's no middle-of-the-road on this tax increase. 

One on side, the Keller ISD says it is growing while the budget is shrinking.

On the other side, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who wrote an open letter saying the state increased Keller's budget by $2.7-million.

Superintendent James Veitenheimer told News 8 he knows the final numbers from the state still aren't enough. "I know we have 800 more kids coming this next year,” he said. “And I know our projected revenue reduction from this current legislative action is somewhere between $13 and $17 million.

Veitenheimer said that's in addition to the $16 million the district already saved by cutting 200 jobs.

Now Keller ISD is asking for a 13-cent property tax increase, just enough to cover the $17 million shortfall from the state and avoid another round of cuts.

If the tax increase doesn't pass, Keller ISD will consider cutting another 240 jobs and possibly phasing out bus service

The Tarrant County Tea Party calls that a scare tactic. It says Keller ISD is using teacher jobs as an election platform to make up for spending issues.

One parent, Ron Ludlow sides with the lieutenant governor. "Our taxes are higher than Southlake and Colleyville and Grapevine,” he said.”We're the only ones having a tax ratification election. So we already have the highest taxes, and they want to raise them."

If the property tax passes in a city election this Saturday, a $200,000 home would pay another $260 in taxes each year.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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