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Denton ISD calls tax rate election

In the wake of a City Council election, Denton voters will see another measure on the ballot come September. 

After unanimously passing the district tax rate ordinance in its Tuesday night meeting, the Denton ISD school board called a tax ratification election for what's known as a "tax swap." 

Voters are being asked to approve an increase in the district's maintenance and operations tax rate, bringing it from $1.04 per $100 valuation to $1.06. The tax money goes into the district's operating budget that pays for salaries, supplies and other daily expenditures.

The board lowered the interest and sinking tax rate from 50 cents to 48 cents with the approval of the tax ordinance. Those taxes can be used only to pay off bond debts on facilities.

Although the overall tax rate would remain the same at $1.54, district officials estimate the tax swap would bring roughly $7 million more in funding to the district next year. 

"This is about the only fiscally responsible thing we can do," board member Charles Stafford said during a May board meeting where they discussed the potential election.

Election day has been set for Sept. 9, and early voting begins Aug. 23. 

The board also had a public hearing for the tax rate, but only one person chose to speak.

"I know you say the rate won't increase," said Willie Hudspeth, a longtime resident and president of the local NAACP chapter. "But I guarantee the people in this room who are paying property taxes on their homes will tell you that where it says 'Denton ISD' on their bill this year is quite a bit more than last year."

School officials argue that even as property taxes rise, Denton ISD doesn't get to keep the extra money because it goes back to the state in what's known as a "Robin Hood" program. Under the program, a portion of the taxes from property-wealthy districts are dispersed to property-poor districts in an effort to equalize funding.

School finance was a contested topic in the recent legislative session after the Texas Supreme Court declared the formulas constitutional but convoluted. The issue was put back on the agenda when Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special session in July.

The board also set a time and date for a public budget hearing. Community members are encouraged to voice their opinions on the upcoming yearly budget at 6 p.m. June 27 at the Stephens Central Services Building, 1307 N. Locust St.

For more information on the budget or other agenda items, go to www.dentonisd.org/trustees and click on "Board Meeting Agendas and Information."

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.