McKINNEY, TX - McKinney ISD received some welcome news when details were recently announced about the state’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). The grant fund was authorized as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), that was signed into law in March 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. McKinney ISD will receive approximately $16.5 million in relief funds and must expend the funds by September 2024.
“These relief funds could not have come at a more critical time,” said Dr. Rick McDaniel, McKinney ISD Superintendent of Schools. “Students and teachers have been significantly impacted by the effects of COVID-19, and we are focused on restoring normalcy to campuses next year, while at the same time ensuring the health and safety of our learning environments.”
The funds will allow the district to maintain smaller class sizes and adequate staffing for the next three years. The injection of funds also provides McKinney ISD homeowners with a silver-lining; the district expects to lower the tax rate by 7 cents, rather than the previously communicated 3 cent tax rate reduction.
On May 1, voters overwhelmingly supported four different ballot items. The community passed an Attendance Credit Election (ACE), a Voter Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE), a Bond Election, and a Technology Bond Election. The Voter Approval Tax Rate Election was proposed to provide additional funding for the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budget, enabling the district to maintain smaller class sizes, support programs, and provide teachers and support staff with competitive compensation. The district was slated to increase the M&O Tax Rate by 2 cents, and lower the Interest and Sinking (I&S) Tax Rate by 5 cents, resulting in a net decrease of 3 cents (a savings of approximately $122 per average single-family home).
Even though the community supported the proposition, McKinney ISD will forgo the VATRE. This will enable the district to lower the overall Tax Rate by over 7 cents ($0.0733). This Tax Rate reduction presents an approximate savings of $275 for the average single-family home in McKinney ISD.
“We cannot thank the McKinney community enough for their ongoing support of public education and McKinney ISD,” said Jason Bird, McKinney ISD Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations. “McKinney has always supported strong schools and our residents understand the impact that quality schools have on our community. When we received this funding, we saw an opportunity to meet the needs of our students, and also provide additional tax relief to our taxpayers. The funding must be expended by September 2024, unless pending legislation provides extension, and we are confident that if the district is in financial need at that time, our community will once again support McKinney ISD with a VATRE. If we can provide a bigger tax cut than we originally thought, I think we owe it to our community. They have always supported McKinney ISD students and schools and we trust they will do so in the future.”
The ESSER funding grants are administered in three pieces of legislation. As a result, the ESSER programs are administered by the Texas Education Agency as separate grant programs. ESSER I was authorized as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These grants were intended to help schools respond to COVID-19. ESSER II and III are intended to cover the costs of reopening and operating schools with new safety protocols and to support districts as they navigate through the operational impact of the COVID pandemic. ESSER I and ESSER II totaled $6.8 billion at the state level, and ESSER III totaled $11.2 billion in relief funds.
The district will receive no additional funding as a result of ESSER I, as state aid was reduced by the ESSER I grant amount. McKinney ISD will receive roughly $16.5 million in relief as a result of ESSER III, and the district will have to wait until the conclusion of the legislative session before ESSER II grant information is released. It is possible the state will supplant state aid with the ESSER II grant funds as they did with ESSER I, so under that scenario the district would not receive additional funds through ESSER II. If the funds are released the district could receive up to $6 million in additional COVID relief funding.