Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Ups and Downs of School District Taxes

With the new fiscal year beginning in October, Texas' 1,265 school districts typically adopt a budget and set tax rates in September.  Here is information on a few of Williamson County's 15 school districts. 

Round Rock ISD
Despite the sky-is-falling claims made earlier this year by the superintendent, Round Rock Independent School District has fared relatively well, financially speaking. In fact, many residents were surprised to learn that RRISD had amassed nearly $200 million in reserve funds, at least $31 million more than the district's goal.  In a surprise move at last week's meeting, right-leaning board members noted that property values had risen, and proposed reducing the RRISD property tax rate from $1.38 to $1.335. The three Left-leaning members, Chadwell, Cox, and Hannah, had come under fire last month for voting to give Superintendent Jesus Chavez yet another raise (they were defeated 4-3). This time they sided with the fiscal conservatives.

Not exactly a conservative himself, Superintendent Chavez was on KLBJ radio yesterday spinning the tax rate reduction as only a true liberal can. According to Chavez, the district was only able to reduce the rate because of the federal stimulus dollars, and the reduction will only be temporary. Despite the spin, voters can be pleased that the majority of the board has taken a balanced approach to budget and tax rates.

Leander ISD
Property owners in the Leander School District were not so fortunate. The LISD Board has been struggling to cope with some very poor past decisions; they face $1.2 billion in bond debt and Fitch has not only reduced their bond rating, but now lists the LISD outlook as 'negative'. Administration had identified prudent cuts in the ISD budget earlier this year, but backed down once they realized state cuts were not as dire as scare-mongers on the Left had predicted. Despite a barrage of feedback from the community, the LISD Board voted unanimously to increase the tax rate by $.0459 cents to $1.499 per $100 of valuation. 

Residents are hoping the current board will steer a more fiscally prudent course, but have been mystified by recent decisions.  Especially troubling is the LISD plan to spend $6 million on land for yet another new school. The district already has two brand-new schools that will stand empty for the second year in a row. Furthermore, the land in question is prime commercial land near Highway 183 and Cypress Creek Road. Co-opting such land for a school will deprive the district of furture commercial tax revenue.

Hutto ISD
The HISD Board is asking voters to approve a $.06 increase on the November ballot. The current total HISD rate is $1.60.

Georgetown ISD
The total tax rate was increased from $1.29 to $1.358 for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Taylor ISD
Taylor ISD will reduce the property tax rate from $1.47 to $1.45, and carry a surplus of about $54,000. 

No comments: