The Argyle school district has called a public hearing for 6 p.m. Aug. 6 on the 2012-13 tax rate.
Superintendent Telena Wright said district officials are proposing a 6-cent maintenance and operations rate increase. Refinancing bonds has saved the district some money, a district official said, and Argyle will look to propose a 4-cent decrease in the debt service rate. Essentially, in doing so, the tax rate for 2012-13 will increase by 2 cents to $1.48 per $100 valuation.
Argyle’s current tax rate is $1.04 for maintenance and operations and 42 cents for the debt service rate, totaling $1.46 per $100 valuation.
To increase its maintenance and operations rate, Argyle is required by state law to call a tax ratification election. According to a district timeline, the board intends to call an election after adopting its proposed rate and schedule the tax ratification election for October. The district also intends to conduct community forums on the issue Sept. 10 and Sept. 24.
The district faces a projected $1 million deficit for the upcoming year. District officials have attributed the shortfall to declining enrollment, a decrease in state revenue and an increase in recapture payments — the money Argyle as a property-wealthy district returns to the state. District officials have said that as the district’s enrollment decreases, the amount it returns to the state in recapture increases.
District officials said they intend to absorb a portion of the deficit through budget cuts and enrolling 100 incoming pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students living outside Argyle’s school boundaries into the district tuition free through its limited open enrollment program approved by the board in April.
The district hopes the tax rate increase will absorb the other portion of the deficit.
State law requires school districts to conduct a traditional tax ratification election 30 to 90 days after adopting a tax rate. If the general election, which is Nov. 6, falls within that 30- to 90-day period, a district must hold its election in conjunction with that one.
The earliest a district can adopt a tax rate or call an election is Aug. 5.
Argyle’s schedule calls for the board to vote on the tax rate and call the tax ratification election on Aug. 6 — 92 days before the Nov. 6 general election.
So Argyle would schedule the tax ratification for Oct. 13.
“The general election date is not the best time to have the tax ratification election,” Wright told board members at a meeting Monday.
She said statistics show tax ratifications not held in conjunction with a general election pass at a higher rate.
School board members Monday reviewed a report on tax ratification elections put together by BOSC Inc. earlier this year that indicated that between 2007-11, 393 elections have been called by Texas school districts. Of those elections to increase a district’s tax rate, 274 (69.72 percent) were approved.
At a board meeting Monday, board President Kevin Faciane said what “struck” him is that in a majority of the tax ratification elections held in Texas since 2007, districts have sought to increase maintenance and operations tax rates to $1.17 per $100 valuation, the maximum a district can set.
“We’re not even near that or don’t anticipate being near that on the TRE,” he said.
In 2006, the state legislature compressed school tax rates. During the 2006-07 school year, most school districts were required to reduce their maintenance and operations tax rates to $1.33 per $100 valuation. The previous cap had been $1.50.
The following school year, districts were required to reduce maintenance and operations tax rates to $1 per $100 valuation.
Dominic Giarratani, a TASB assistant director, said school districts have the option to increase that portion of the tax rate to $1.04 without voter approval. They can raise it 13 cents more with a tax ratification election. The debt service portion of the tax rate is capped at 50 cents.
Faciane said the higher tax could allow the district to balance its budget.
“This was our last in line of our measures to try to balance the budget,” Faciane said. “We’ve exhausted our other avenues to pass a balanced budget. We feel this is where we have to turn at this point.”
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .