By Ian White
A SCHOOL district faced with a shortfall of $3.9m in its budget for the coming educational year is hoping to save most of its taxpayers from higher bills despite a proposal to ask them to vote for a hefty tax-rate increase to cover the shortfall.
A massive citywide business-property market valuation and this year’s $10,000 increase in homestead exemptions are key to the district’s calculations, which its trustees will consider during a public tax-setting meeting on Tuesday evening.
Texas City ISD superintendent Cynthia Lusignolo and her senior officers will tell their board members that, in order to balance the district’s budget, they will be forced to choose between cutting services and asking the electorate to vote for a 13-cent rise in the tax rate.
Cutting services could mean axing teaching staff, an option likely to impinge on the district’s educational standards as it has a burgeoning student enrollment, up from 5,944 two years ago to 6,347 this year.
At least two of the trustees are known to be against that idea.
Board member Bryan Thompson said: “We are making academic gains in a very tough state accountability system. I don’t want to see us take away anything that benefits students now while we are moving forward.”
And fellow trustee Dickey Campbell said: “A rate increase is our best option. When you factor in the increased homestead exemption, most of our residents will experience little or no increase in their school taxes.”
If a majority of the board members agree with them, they are likely to vote for the second option, asking the city’s electorate to raise the tax rate that supports the district’s maintenance and operations budget from $1.04 per $100,000 of appraised property value to $1.17.
If so, the proposal will be placed on the ballot at November’s general election.
A 13-cent increase in the rate will produce revenues of $5.3m, but the district will have to pay the state a “Robin Hood” contribution of $1.4m out of the proceeds, leaving it with the money it needs to balance the budget.
Because industry and other big business interests own property worth 82.6 per cent of the city’s taxable value, their joint contributions to the cause will leave residential taxpayers with a combined burden of just $300,000 to top up the pot.
But many homeowners will not have to pay any more towards it than they paid this year and some will not have to pay at all because of the increased home exemption and a decline in the value of many homes in Texas City, where the total property value has fallen from $3.84 billion last year to $3.63 billion now.
Tables produced by the district for The Post on Wednesday show that owners of homes worth $100,000 will be almost $34 better off while owners of homes worth $150,000 will see their school-tax bill rise by less than $34.
The figures are even better for homeowners who qualify for age exemption or are disabled, with some paying no tax at all and many others having their bills reduced by almost $150.