There was a very low turnout for the first of two town hall meetings held by Levelland ISD to discuss the upcoming tax ratification election.
The board called for the tax ratification election in June. The Chief Financial Officer for the district Lance Terrell presented information on exactly what this means to voters. It was noted that it is in essence a tax swap of two cents.
What is a tax ratification election? Texas school boards are charged with adopting a budget and tax rate each year. The Maintenance and Operations tax rate is set at a $1.04 by the state legislature, in order for the district to increase that rate, even though it is just a swap of two cents from the I&S Rate, they must call the election and let voters decide.
It was noted that the state legislature has not increased funding and does not appear to be set to in the next session. Currently the district receives less funding per student than 10 years ago.
School District funding is made up of two main components including state aid, local property taxes for funding. A TRE election allows the district to receive more funds because the two cents moved from the I&S are worth more than normal two cents of funding, however, it does require voter approval. If approved the TRE election would generate an additional $550,000.
The district has reduced local operational costs over the past two years they have reduced staff by 40 positions district wide through attrition. They also cut non payroll/debt expense items and froze salaries for two years. The district has run out of options other than the TRE election. What will a two cent tax swap do for Levelland ISD, generate an additional $556,000. Most other districts in this area have already passed a Tax Ratification Election. Olton ISD in Lamb County passed a TRE this past weekend on an overwhelming margin with only three dissenting votes.
How will this affect an average residence in Levelland ISD. Their is an increase in property values NOT a tax increase which will lead to a net $55.00 per year on an average size home.
What will the money be used for, it will be used to increase instructional and non instructional pay scales for staff. After addressing some major needs this year with vehicles and other needs, the district would like to increase salaries by more than two percent. It was noted that Levelland ISD contributes $335 toward the employee health insurance for its employees. They will also use the money to replace aging assets including four route buses, one activity bus as well as several fleet vehicles and maintenance vehicles which have aged beyond useful life. The TRE would also allow the district to put fleet vehicles on a replacement schedule to prevent them from aging beyond useful life. The district also plans to replace aging HVAC units as well as some playground equipment replacements at elementary campuses.
If the TRE fails the district trustees would have to try and address the issues and remain in a balanced budget.
Levelland ISD is not proposing an increase in the tax rate at this time. If tax values drop in the future, they would have to raise the rate to meet debt obligations.
This election would not change the time frame in paying off the district’s existing debt.
Early voting through August 10th at the Election Administration office at 911 Austin Street from 9 am to 5 pm. Election Day is August 11 from 7 am to 7 pm at Capitol Elementary and Levelland Intermediate School.
It is important to remember that regardless how this election turns out, when property values go down from the appraisal district then you must raise rates to meet the debt already in place. The only thing that would require the rate to go up is if property values across the district go up. It is noted that tax rates for debt are set totally based on values and no new debt can be taken on without voter approval.
Chief Financial Officer Lance Terrell said with the passing of the Tax Ratification Election, it will benefit the district for years to come. It is important to note that one of the big items to be funded is replacing a 2002 Activity Bus and four route buses, these all impact the safety of students. The activity bus has broken down numerous times on road trips.