Citing their desire to ensure budget decisions are decided by local voters, the Carroll School Board voted Monday evening to call a two-cent Tax Ratification Election September 15, 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 approved, the net difference of one-half cent will mean an annual average increase of about $25 per household and funds will be used to help with the operational deficit. If the election fails, Carroll voters will still get the benefit of the debt service rate decrease, which essentially equates to $75 per household per year.
Board President Read Ballew told a small group of citizens and staff that no member of the School Board wants 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 and Fund Balance. 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. 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 Monday centered on whether or not the Board could also give an I&S rate decrease to help offset the proposed M&O increase.
Nine patrons were present Monday to comment during the Board’s public input process. Two of the patrons spoke in support of calling an election and the remaining individuals asked the Board to consider other options and avoid a special tax election. By August 31, the Board must adopt the 2012-2013 budget. As it stands now, the Board delayed the start of school, cut eight teaching positions and added a $250 school bus rider fee. Those actions followed more than $3 million in administrative and support staff cuts including athletics, supply budgets, travel and professional development. In turn, the district has joined hundreds of other districts in suing the state of Texas for not adequately funding public education. A court date is set for October 22 of this year. 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.
More information about Carroll ISD’s ongoing work to address the state funding loss is available at CarrollBudget.com. Visit this website regularly for information on the September 15 special election and other budget-related news.