Sunday, December 10, 2023

Resonating on the growth in our district.


I hope everyone enjoyed the Homecoming activities that make Azle ISD such a special place. The parade was one of the largest, prompting me to resonate on the growth in our district. Reflecting on homecoming, a tradition of welcoming back former students and staff to celebrate our successes and reflect on the past, it is the perfect opportunity to remind everyone we have a bond referendum on the November election ballot.

Recent columns have covered many aspects of the bond proposition. I have shared information about the long-range facilities planning committee process, district tax rate, and school funding. Other columns have been more specific about some of the proposed projects and grade-level reconfiguration.

This month, I focus on safety and security and the anticipated tax impact, if passed.

Safety and security of our students and staff always remain a top priority. The bond includes a new Azle Junior High campus, providing a safer, more secure learning environment. The current campus opened in 1953. Today, it consists of six buildings with 25 exterior doors. The new AJH keeps all students under one roof, has fewer exterior doors, eliminates travel between out buildings, improved ADA, compliance, and improved educational spaces. Both the new AJH and additions/renovations at Forte Junior High include a storm shelter for all students and staff.

Ensuring our students and staff continue to have safe learning environments, a crucial component of the safety and security of Azle ISD is the Police Department, currently made up of 13 officers. Our district is growing, with 1,000 more students expected over the next five years, and we expect our police force to increase alongside student enrollment. The bond includes upgrades to our police headquarters and a new maintenance warehouse.

I previously shared about school taxes as a component of your total property tax bill, and aspects of how public school funding works in Texas. A top priority of our district is to be good stewards of your tax dollars through sound financial management and decisions. Since 2018, Azle ISD has lowered its portion of your property tax bill by 19 cents. The Azle ISD tax rate has historically been, and continues to be, one of the lowest in the area. Our Board of Trustees remain committed to continuing that tradition. While the legislature often presents challenges to our funding, the recent passage of HB 1, along with our property values; ensures funding for all bond projects, with a total tax rate of $1.13. That is eight cents LOWER than last year. The average Azle ISD home is valued at $266,000 and taxes would decrease by $213 a year. On a $300,000 home, taxes would decrease by $240 a year compared to last year.

I also draw attention to Proposition 9, a constitutional amendment providing a cost-of-living raise to retired teachers. Informing and engaging our valued community is important to our Azle ISD team. Visit our website for more bond election information, including two upcoming community events.

We Are Azle!

Todd Smith