Breckenridge Texan

Early Voting continues in BISD tax rate election

Early Voting continues in BISD tax rate election
August 13
15:26 2018

Early Voting continues this week in the Breckenridge Independent School District’s tax ratification election. As of the morning of Monday, Aug. 13, 145 people had voted.

Voters can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday through Aug. 21 at the BISD Administration Building, 208 N. Miller St. Additionally, early voting hours will be extended to include 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14. Election Day voting will be on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the administration building.

The election is part of a plan by the BISD Board of Trustees to take advantage of additional State of Texas funding.  The school district is eligible for the funds – which could add as much as $270,000 to the BISD coffers – but only if the BISD Maintenance and Operations tax rate is at least $1.17, according to BISD Superintendent Tim Seymore.

The current BISD M&O is $1.04. However, when it is combined with the school district’s Interest and Sinking tax of $0.1285, the total school tax rate that local property owners pay is almost $1.17 ($1.1685) per $100 property valuation. The M&O funds pay for the district’s expenses, including salaries, utility bills, etc. The I&S tax revenue is used to make the payment for the bonds that were approved by voters several years ago to build the new high school gym and the addition to East Elementary.

In order to qualify for the extra funds, the school board wants to raise the M&O tax rate to $1.17 while eliminating the I&S tax. That way, the school district can get the additional money from the state, and the taxpayers can maintain a total tax rate of $1.17. If the new plan is approved, the bond payment will be paid with the M&O tax funds, Seymore said.

With that in mind, the trustees approved a plan at their July 9 meeting setting a 2018-2019 tax rate that raises the district’s M&O tax from $1.04 to $1.17 and then lowers the district’s I&S tax from $0.13 to $0.00, keeping the total rate at $1.17.

However, the school district is not allowed by law to raise the M&O tax above the current $1.04 rate without approval from local voters. Therefore, the school board scheduled the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) that is going on right now, officially requesting permission from local taxpayers to raise the M&O tax rate to $1.17.

Because the I&S tax can’t be zeroed out unless the voters approve the $1.17 M&O tax, the ballot will include the proposed higher M&O rate plus the current I&S rate combined, for a total of $1.30. However, the school board members have already voted to reduce the I&S rate to $0.00, so immediately after the election, if the voters approve the new rate, the total rate will be reduced to $1.17. That is also known as a “tax swap” or “penny swap.”

If approved, the total tax of $1.17 per $100 property valuation will be slightly higher than last year’s school district tax – less than one-sixth of a penny higher. That increase from $1.1685 to $1.17 is $0.0015 and is needed to get the total tax up to $1.17 to qualify for the additional state funds.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median value of owner-occupied housing units in Breckenridge (from 2012-2016) is $66,100. A citizen owning a house of that value will pay, in total, less than a dollar more each year on their school district taxes at the new rate.

Additionally, according to Seymore, the rate will be $1.17 regardless of whether or not the TRE passes. If it passes, the rate will be $1.17 for the M&O tax and $0.00 for the I&S tax. If it doesn’t pass, the rate will be $1.04 for the M&O tax and $0.13 for the I&S tax, for the same a total of $1.17.

The difference is that if it doesn’t pass, the school district will not be eligible for the additional funds from the state.

Seymore has acknowledged one thing that could be a concern for voters is that if the new tax rate structure is approved by voters, technically, the I&S rate could be added back in at some time in the future without further voter approval, creating the potential for a higher total tax rate in the future. However, he said he hopes that local voters can trust in the elected officials to do the right thing. “That’s why you have to believe your school board members are going to do what you elected them to do,” he said last month when the new tax rate was initially approved.

Several other school districts in Texas have similar elections pending, and others have already been approved. Voters in Leon County’s Oakwood school district approved a tax ratification election last month, and the Bryan-College Station newspaper, The Eagle, quoted the OISD superintendent as saying that more than half of all Texas school districts have passed TREs.

According to the Houston Chronicle, voters in the Klein ISD voted against a TRE there, and the school board is looking for ways to cut $30 million from their budget to account for the lost state funds.

For more information on the BISD tax rate or the election, call the BISD administration office at 254-522-9600 or stop by the office at 208 N. Miller St. Additionally, information is available in the following Breckenridge Texan articles:

Change to BISD tax rate structure could bring in more revenue without raising taxes

BISD approves tax rate change, sets election, approves decorating travel buses

“Early voting in BISD tax ratification election to start Aug. 8”

Click below to see a BISD video further explaining the tax rate and election:

 

Cutline, top photo: A distance marker outside the Breckenridge ISD administration building reminds citizens that they must be at least 100 feet away from the polling location to do any electioneering. Early Voting for the Tax Ratification Election for BISD will take place on weekdays through Aug. 21, and Election Day will be Aug. 25. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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