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2018-06-13 / Local

Floresville ISD ‘penny swap’ presentation stirs discussion

By Gregory Ripps
Wilson County News


“The only people who can’t kick the can down the road is the homeowner-taxpayer,” Russell Dickerson said June 5 in criticizing the Floresville Independent School District’s proposed tax ratification election. 
GREGORY RIPPS/Reprints at bit.ly/wcnphotos “The only people who can’t kick the can down the road is the homeowner-taxpayer,” Russell Dickerson said June 5 in criticizing the Floresville Independent School District’s proposed tax ratification election. GREGORY RIPPS/Reprints at bit.ly/wcnphotos (Videos below) It’s like moving your money from one bank account to one that earns more interest.

That’s how Floresville Independent School District Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations William “Bill” Atkins described the concept behind a plan to raise the district’s property-tax rate for maintenance and operations while lowering the property-tax rate to pay off its debts.

Atkins was part of a June 5 information session open to the public to spell out the tax proposal, designed to obtain more state funding for the district.

According to information presented by district officials, the state provides more funding for maintenance and operations (M&O) than for financing debt, or “interest and sinking” (I&S). Consequently, moving 13 cents from the I&S tax rate to the M&O tax rate will yield an additional $1 million for the school district the first year.

The fate of the tax proposal will be decided by district voters in an Aug. 25 tax ratification election. In accordance with the state’s tax election requirements, the proposal on the ballot mentions only raising the tax for the district’s M&O. However, district trustees are expected to lower the I&S tax rate 13 cents, which will keep the overall property-tax rate at 1.445 cents per $100 valuation.

“At this point in time, this is the way we can do it,” Bays said.

Russell Dickerson, one of the eight citizens attending the presentation, expressed his objections to the plan.

“From a taxpayer’s point of view, there’s a scheme in Austin to put us in the vise as much as they can,” Dickerson said. “I don’t trust the Legislature.”

He said he thinks the state Legislature will change its school-financing formula after it “pushes” all Texas school districts to raise their M&O tax rate.

He also said that, while current school-board trustees may lower the I&S tax, a future board of trustees can raise it.

“I understand,” Atkins responded. “But this board, this year, can’t vote and approve something that a board can act on next year.”

District Superintendent Sherri Bays added that the tax-rate increase for the M&O would remain in effect indefinitely, adding that even if it was in effect for only one year, the district would still obtain $1 million in funding that it wouldn’t otherwise receive.

“At least we would benefit for a year,” she said.

At least 425 out of the state’s 1,031 school districts have approved similar tax-rate swaps.

South San ISD in San Antonio will hold a similar tax election in August, also for a 13-cent change. Schertz- Cibolo-Universal City ISD also was considering a tax ratification election in November. Seguin ISD voters approved the “tax swap” in 2016.

gripps@wcn-online.com

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