Early voting begins Wednesday in the two-cent Tax Ratification Election for Carroll Independent School District. Voters can cast a ballot at Southlake Town Hall on the third floor between August 29 and September 11. The actual election day is Saturday, September 15 in the Art Center of Carroll Senior High School.
Carroll ISD will hold a public Question & Answer Session on Thursday, August 30 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Johnson Elementary School. The public is invited to attend this meeting to hear the facts related to the election and to school finance
Citing their desire to ensure budget decisions are decided by local voters, the Carroll School Board voted July 16 to call the special election, while simultaneously giving local voters a one-and-a-half-cent tax decrease on the debt service tax rate. School officials say all of the district’s efforts to inform and engage the public have centered around the desire to keep cuts away from the classroom for as long as possible.
Voters will decide whether or not to approve the $1.06 per $100 Maintenance & Operations (M&O) rate, up two cents from $1.04 in 2011-2012. Trustees adopted an overall rate of $1.42, which includes the proposed $1.06 M&O rate, as well as $0.36 per $100 for the debt service or Interest & Sinking (I&S) rate. If the tax is approved, the two-cent additional tax will generate $1.1 million more in local tax dollars to help offset the district’s operating expenses. The annual increase to the average CISD homeowner would be about $25. If the tax is approved, all of the monies collected would stay in Carroll ISD.
If the tax does not pass, Board and Administration will have to consider other options to help balance the budget. These options include changes to scheduling, class sizes or programs, a reduction in teaching, support and administrative positions, a shift of the fiscal year, the sale of property and/or other identified cuts. Voters will get the benefit of the 1.5-cent debt service rate decrease regardless of the outcome of the election.
With the additional two cents, CISD must manage through a $2.8 million deficit. Without the two cents, the deficit is $3.9 million.
Board President Read Ballew the School Board does not wish to increase taxes, however, he said the Board supports local control and believes Carroll voters should decide whether or not they want a two-cent tax increase to help fund the operating deficit. The district experienced an $8 million state funding cut over the biennium. Despite its best efforts to cut budgets, eliminate positions and increase revenues, CISD still faces about a $2.8 million operating deficit for 2012-2013. That is down from the original $5 million deficit before the district began making cuts. The Board was able to balance the 2011-2012 school budget, but not without the help of one-time revenue sources. Trustees used Build America Bonds (BABS), as well as energy grants and rebates to make up a $3 million deficit this past year.
Since 2009, the Board has been studying options for reducing expenses and increasing revenue. During that time the Board and Administration have encouraged public participation in a series of informative meetings, focus groups and online surveys. As a result of the public input, the district adopted a three-to-five year plan to Balance the Budget; the plan was implemented in 2011. More than 80 percent of the participants in an online survey said they would support a two-cent tax increase if the money stays in Carroll ISD. Many of those same survey participants said they would not support an election to raise the tax rate the additional 11 cents allowed by law because more than 60 percent of the funds would be sent back to the state under the Chapter 41 Robin Hood recapture formula. Carroll Trustees never really gave serious consideration to calling an election for more than two cents. In fact, much of the discussion July 16 centered on whether or not the Board could also give an I&S rate decrease to help offset the proposed M&O increase.
Early voting will be 8 a .m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours on the last three days of early voting. There will not be voting available on Sundays or on Labor Day, September 3. Click here for a Complete Voting Schedule.