Prime Timers learn about tax rollback election

Image: Eubank and Lawson eating —  Larry Eubank, school board president and Diane Lawson, retired school administrator.

Eubank and Lawson eating — Larry Eubank, school board president and Diane Lawson, retired school administrator. (Sandy Westbrook)

The Prime Timers of Central Baptist Church in Italy hosted more than 50 people Wednesday at the kickoff of its monthly luncheon.

Ricky Boyd and Curtis Riddle, church members and members of the Italy School Board of Trustees, presented those in attendance with an explanation of the Tax Rollback Election scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 11.

Boyd spoke first with a slide presentation.

The trustees are proposing a $0.13 tax rate increase. This increase will add an additional $481,500 to the budget for the 2008/2009 school year and each year thereafter until the State Legislature changes current law. The board, however, cannot raise the tax rate without the approval of voters.

The Texas Legislature, following a lawsuit from the West Orange-Cove II, is required to change the Texas School Finance System. The new requirement will reduce school district tax rates and allow districts to raise their tax rates to obtain additional funds to preserve their local “reasonable discretion.”

The solution forces school district tax rates to stay below the $1.50 cap and allow districts to equalized funds so they could exercise their “reasonable discretion” to obtain enrichment funds.

Boyd said many of the school districts across the state were at the maximum $1.50 cap. The Texas Supreme Court gave the Texas Legislature until June 1, 2006 to repair the problem.

Riddle said the result was a new business tax, sales tax on used vehicles was strengthened and cigarette taxes were raised. This allowed the legislature the funds necessary to reduce school district property taxes and create an opportunity for school districts to obtain additional funds.

Riddle said Palmer, Red Oak, Avalon and Frost are other area school districts calling for the Tax Rate Election (TRE). At some point, he added, most school districts in the state will call a TRE.

The local school district tax rate decreased from $1.50 in 2005 to $1.33 in 2006 and further down to $1 in 2007 and 2008, without a reduction in total revenue. It allowed districts to raise rates by up to $0.04 above the compressed rate, which allowed Italy ISD to go from $1 to $1.04 without a tax rate election (TRE). A maintenance and operation budget above $1.04 requires voter approval.

Boyd said the rollback election asks voters to vote for or against approving the ad valorem tax rate of $1.241 per $100 valuation — $1.17 to maintenance and operations and $0.71 to interest and sinking. That M&O rate cannot change without a change in the state law.

There is an opportunity for the district to earn six Golden Austin Pennies based on the weighted average daily attendance (WADA). The school district WADA is 953. The Golden Pennies breakdown per penny would provide the district with $39,186 from the state while the school district’s share is $9,398. In addition, 11 Silver Dallas Pennies are available to the district, also based on WADA. The 11 pennies would provide the district with $21,051 per penny from the state. The local district’s share would be $9,398.

Boyd added that the impact of the proposed tax rate would increase school taxes approximately $95.56 per year or $7.96 per month for a home valued at $88,507.

He added that the taxes will remain frozen and will not increase on the Over 65 and Disabled Homesteads. The only time taxes would increase, he pointed out, would be if significant improvements were made to the homestead.

Riddle explained how the district could use the additional funding, if approved by voters.

On the local level, the additional $481,500 will:

  • Help meet and exceed state and national standards for all students;
  • Provide competitive salaries to retain and attract highly qualified staff;
  • Keep up with inflation, especially in fuel, utilities and food costs (energy efficient lighting, energy efficient HVAC and roofing);
  • Improve safety, energy conservation and upgrade facilities on all campuses;
  • Enhance technology for student success in the global economy; and
  • Improve transportation needs.

The district needs these items, according to Boyd, whether the rate passes are not. Many of the air conditioning and heating units are more than 25 years old.

Riddle said fuel, utilities and food costs have risen drastically causing the district to raise those areas 20-30 percent.

The way Italy ISD voters can maximize state funding for its children is to approve the rate of $1.241 — $1.17 for maintenance and operation and $0.071 for interest and sinking. If approved by voters, the state will provide $274 for every $100 Italy ISD dollars.

Early voting starts Sept. 24 and runs through Oct. 7 in the school administration building. Voting starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. An extended voting day is set for Sept. 29 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Stafford Elementary. The election is set for Saturday, Oct. 11, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Wayne Boze building, 161 W. Main Street in Italy.

The Prime Timers meet for lunch at the church the first Wednesday of the month for food and fellowship.