Argyle plans tax ratification election

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School district seeks to set tax rate based on certified estimate

Argyle school officials plan to set their tax rate based on a certified estimate they received in June, rather than the certified tax roll totals released last week as they prepare to call a tax ratification election.

The district is proposing a rate of $1.48 per $100 valuation, and plans to call the election Monday.

Adopting a tax rate based on certified estimates allows the district to follow a timeline for an election prior to the general election in November, said Liz Stewart, the district’s chief financial officer.

The school board will have a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss a proposal to increase the maintenance and operations rate by 6 cents to $1.10 per $100 valuation. That money is used to fund day-to-day operations.

The proposal also calls for a 4 cent debt service rate decrease to 38 cents. That money is used to finance construction, equipment or both approved by voters as part of a bond package.

The total proposed tax rate is $1.48 per $100 valuation, a net increase of 2 cents from the current $1.46 rate.

The district is required by the state to call a tax ratification election to raise its maintenance and operations tax rate above $1.04. The school board intends to call the election at the Aug. 6 meeting.

District officials recently said the district intends to call the election for Sept. 15 with community forums on the issue slated for Aug. 16 and Aug. 21.

The higher rate could result in an $89 tax increase for an average residence within Argyle school boundaries. Those 65 or older or a surviving spouse would be exempt from the increases, according to state law.

The district once considered holding such an election for Oct. 13, but by holding an election Sept. 15, the district could save money, Stewart said.

“We didn’t want to be out any additional costs if we didn’t have to,” Stewart said.

Steve Mossman, Denton County tax assessor/collector, said all taxing jurisdictions have been asked to submit their adopted tax rates by Sept. 25. Tax statements, he said, will be mailed out to county homeowners in October.

If a rollback election occurs after the tax statements have been printed, a jurisdiction would be responsible foradditional costs associated with reprogramming, processing and mailing out new statements, Mossman said.

He said if people pay their taxes before a tax ratification election and the ratification passes, “there has to be a refund of the excess tax.”

Districts have the option either to call a ratification election by early tax adoption or use the traditional tax adoption process and timeframe. Argyle intends to call the election following an early tax adoption process.

By opting to go with the early tax rate adoption process, school districts may adopt a tax rate using certified property value estimates, which Argyle received June 29. Under this process, districts may choose to adopt a tax rate prior to adopting the budget.

The board intends to hold a public hearing on the 2012-13 budget Aug. 20 and adopt it the same evening, Stewart said.

A tax ratification election under the early tax rate adoption process must be held 30 to 90 days after the tax rate is adopted.

Under the traditional tax adoption process, Argyle would have needed to adopt its budget before it adopted its tax rate and use the certified final tax rolls.

If the general election, which is Nov. 6, is within the 30- to 90-day period, the district must hold the election in conjunction with the general election under the traditional tax rate adoption process.

The earliest a district may can adopt a tax rate or call an election abiding by the traditional tax adoption process is Aug. 5.

Superintendent Telena Wright has said that statistics show tax ratification elections not occurring in conjunction with the general election are approved by voters at a higher rate.

The school district faces a $1 million shortfall for the 2012-13 year, which district officials have attributed to declining enrollment, a decrease in state revenue and increased recapture payments — the money Argyle, a property-wealthy district, returns to the state.

District officials have said that enrollment decreases result in increased recapture payments.

The district plans to generate more state revenue by accepting 100 students in pre-kindergarten- through eighth-grade tuition-free.

Argyle also looks to offset the deficit with a tax ratification approval. Voter approval of the increased tax rate could generate $8,733 in local revenue per student and $1,509 in state revenue per student, according to the district’s public meeting notice.

At the current tax rate, the district receives $8,594 per student in local revenue and $1,700 per student in state revenue, according to the notice.

District officials anticipate the increased tax rate, if approved by voters, would allow the district to balance its budget.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is btabor@dentonrc.com .

 


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