ARGYLE — The Argyle school board will have public meetings on Thursday and Aug. 21 to discuss the district’s finance history and its decision to call a tax ratification election in September.
This week, the board adopted a $1.48 per $100 valuation property tax rate — a 2 cent increase from the current year. The district also called a tax ratification election for Sept. 15.
“I think it’s going to be important that the taxpayers in the Argyle school district come to the public meetings on the 16th and 21st … to understand the decision to go forward with the TRE,” said Kevin Faciane, board president.
In a breakout of the tax rate, $1.10, a 6 cent increase from the current rate, was adopted to fund the maintenance and operations budget, while 38 cents, a 4 cent decrease, was adopted to fund the district’s debt obligations.
In order to raise the maintenance and operations tax rate above $1.04, the state requires the district to call a tax ratification election.
Del Knowler of Bartonville addressed the board before its vote, saying he opposed a tax rate increase.
He argued the district “overbuilt.” Knowler said Argyle opened its high school in 2000 with too few students. District officials reported they had 426 students in that school in grades six through 10 that year. The ninth and 10th grade that year included 166 students. Knowler said the district should have waited to open the new school until the high school enrollment was at 500.
High school enrollment last school year was 656.
“To increase taxes to save money, I really have a problem with that,” Knowler told the board. “I think you need to tighten your belt; do like the rest of us.”
Argyle faces a $1 million shortfall for the 2012-13 year that 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 as a result of decreased enrollment.
District officials have said they look to absorb the deficit and generate additional revenue through voter approval of the tax ratification and by accepting 100 out-of-district pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade students into Argyle, tuition-free.
Knowler said it troubles him that Argyle is enrolling students who live outside the district. They bring no taxable value to the district, and local property owners are assisting in paying to educate them, he said.
Had the district not de-annexed 13.7 square miles of its property to the Denton school district 10 years ago, Argyle might have had more students to generate state revenue and the tax base would be larger, he said. In 2002, Argyle detached the property to lower its property value.
“To raise taxes so that you don’t have to give the state money makes absolutely no sense.” Knowler said after Monday’s meeting. “I just have a real problem trusting these people, that they’re going to do the right thing, because they haven’t in the past.”
Argyle school officials will hold the two public meetings on the tax ratification at 7 p.m. Thursday and Aug. 21 at the Argyle High School Lecture Hall, 191 S. U.S. Highway 377.
District officials said questions will be taken from the audience following a presentation of the district’s financial history.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .