Board, chancellor oppose proposed legislation requiring election for tax rate above 5 percent

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Leslie is against ‘bathroom’ bill he believes targets marginalized group.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

The board of trustees and Chancellor Bruce Leslie discussed at the July 25 board meeting the potential impact of legislation on the agenda for the special session of the Texas Legislature.

In an interview with The Ranger July 18, Leslie said the district opposes any legislation that negatively impacts marginalized populations and economics, including Senate Bill 2, Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 4.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate said at the meeting in Killen Center that he attended the Texas Senate hearing July 22 and said Senate Bill 2 was passed in the Senate.

SB 2 would require that local government and taxing entities maintain a maximum tax rate of 5 percent; residents must vote to approve a tax rate exceeding 5 percent.

Current law states that residents may petition to vote on a tax rate that exceeds 8 percent.

Zárate said he spoke with members of the Texas House of Representatives about exempting the Alamo Community College District from the new tax rate requirements and said he plans to be in Austin next week to speak with legislators.

“I testified at the Senate hearing on Saturday and there was just no traction,” Zárate said. “In fact, they passed that version already. … The strategy we adopted was to make sure they carve us out of that particular bill because we’re the only educational institute, either in higher ed or K-12, that’s in that particular probation. So, the House was very receptive to that.”

Zárate said Alamo Colleges would be responsible for expensive election costs and experience large tax revenue losses if the district is not exempted.

“If we don’t get the carve-out, then we’re going to have some issues. … We’ve exceeded the 5 percent threshold several times already. That means, when you have that, you have to run an election, and I think the estimate is that each of the elections would be $200,000 to $300,000 each to run. And that’s a mandatory election every year if you exceed that threshold. Also, we would’ve lost $3.2 million the last two years and maybe 4 point something this year or next year if we get into that particular predicament.”

Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, asked Zárate if the exemption efforts were solely for Alamo Colleges.

Zárate said the attempt to exempt community colleges from the tax rate limits is for all Texas schools.

District 2 trustee McClendon asked Zárate if public K-12 school districts are mentioned in the exemption effort.

Zárate said public school districts are already exempt in the bill’s current draft.

“They’ve already been taken out,” Katz said. “We should be taken out.”

Zárate said people get upset when the board explains that the majority of the district’s budget is from property taxes and said legislators don’t want to address it.

Zárate said the only way to address that is to increase state appropriations.

“If the state would take care of school financing, it would reduce the amount levied on the homeowners,” Zárate said.

Katz asked Zárate about the status of the “bathroom bill.”

Zárate said the bill was passed in the Senate, but the House of Representatives has yet to vote; Zárate said district representatives would be working to prevent the bill from passing next week as well.

SB 3, commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill,” states that all multiple-occupancy bathrooms, showers and changing facilities in a political subdivision, which includes the Alamo Colleges, “must be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

The proposed legislation prevents school districts from adopting or enforcing policy that protects “a class of persons from discrimination” in relation to multiple-occupancy bathrooms, showers and changing facilities.

In an interview with The Ranger July 18, Leslie said he met with members of the LGBTQ community about four years go to discuss restroom designations.

Leslie said the meetings led to the decision that restroom usage wouldn’t be policed, but no official policy was adopted.

In the July 18 interview, Leslie said the district opposes SB 4 because the bill negatively targets a marginalized group of people.

At the March 21 board meeting, the board of trustees approved a public resolution opposing any legislation that “would be detrimental to the educational success of Alamo Colleges District’s undocumented student ‘DREAMers.’”

SB 4 prevents a local entity “campus police department” from adopting, enforcing or endorsing policy that interferes with federal immigration policy; the bill defines “campus” as any public or private institution of higher education in Texas.

The bill allows campus police and local correctional agents to request proof of citizenship from any person detained in the investigation of a crime.

SB 4 was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott May 7 and will take effect Sept. 1.


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