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Board Adopts Tax Rate, Balanced Budget for 2019-2020

Board Adopts Tax Rate, Balanced Budget for 2019-2020

Tax rate is 7 cents lower than previous year despite nullified Tax Ratification Election; balanced budget includes $11 million added to Fund Balance

 

 

In two 6-0 votes Monday, WFISD board members adopted a $1.15 tax rate for the 2019 tax year – a vote that, while fairly routine in most years, was anything but routine this year.

In a specially called meeting on Sept. 30, board members adopted the new tax rate – 7 cents lower than last year’s – despite the fact that the House Bill 3 legislation nullified WFISD’s June “Swap and Drop” Tax Ratification Election (TRE), and the Texas Education Agency denied WFISD’s request for a waiver.

Board members set the new Maintenance and Operations tax rate at 97 cents per $100 valuation (formerly $1.04) and kept the Interest and Sinking (debt) tax rate at 18 cents per $100 valuation for a total tax rate of $1.15, down from last year’s $1.22.

This comes despite the “Swap and Drop” Tax Ratification Election, which voters approved by a resounding 83 percent in June. The “Swap and Drop” would have dropped the overall tax rate by 5 cents by lowering the I&S debt tax rate to zero, and raising the M&O tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17.

By using the “Swap and Drop” to move revenue to the M&O side of the two-prong tax rate, WFISD could more easily have spent the revenue on its schools instead of on debt. It would have generated $1.4 million in new annual operating revenue while also lowering the overall tax rate by 5 cents.

But HB3 eliminated this financial move, even though WFISD voters had already approved it in June.

“The retroactive nature of the HB3 legislation and interpretation by the Texas Education Agency has nullified the WFISD TRE,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt in a statement dated Sept. 30 and read at the Monday meeting in Mr. Kuhrt’s absence by Board President Elizabeth Yeager.

An appeal to the Texas Education Agency was also denied, he wrote. “Therefore, it is like the TRE never happened, and WFISD students will not benefit from the opportunities that other school children in Texas benefit from in districts that have previously passed TREs,” wrote Mr. Kuhrt.

However, voters will see an even greater tax reduction of 7 cents per $100 valuation. “The district will continue our planning processes related to school improvement and facilities and move forward,” wrote Mr. Kuhrt.

Board members also voted 6-0 to approve the amended, balanced budget for WFISD’s General Fund, Food Service Fund and Debt Fund. As Board President Elizabeth Yeager noted, this was the third budget that Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod prepared for them in this legislative year.

The budget is based on the $1.15 tax rate. “The budget increased funding for staff salary increases, additional staff in high-need areas, additional funds for at-risk student services, new security cameras, new buses, technology upgrades and many more items that will continue to allow WFISD to meet the varying needs of our students and staff,” wrote Mr. Kuhrt in the letter read by Ms. Yeager.

It is not the same budget that Mr. Sherrod presented initially or that was adopted in August.

“What we lose: $1.3 million in Function 81 for capital improvements,” said Mr. Sherrod. But he noted that WFISD is adding $11 million to its Fund Balance this year – “a large excess that we don’t typically have in one year,” he said.

“This is the third time we’ve passed a budget this year,” said Ms. Yeager.

She said teachers and staff members will still see the aggressive pay raises given to them this year that began showing up in their Sept. 25 paychecks.

She also expressed thanks to Representative James Frank for his assistance and support throughout the Tax Ratification Election and afterward.