Left to right, San Marcos CISD Superintendent Patty Shafer, Trustee David Chiu and Trustee Judy Allen at this week’s trustees meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
San Marcos CISD trustees settled on a tax rate decrease this week, but school officials are fretting about what the future could hold if the state legislature doesn’t allow more taxing authority.
A tax rate of $1.35 per $100 of taxable value will allow the school district to provide $1,200 raises for full-time educators and raise the beginning minimum teacher salary to $40,600.
“The proposed wage and salary increases will allow the district to remain competitive with surrounding districts and offset premium increases announced by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas for the upcoming year,” said San Marcos CISD Assistant Superintendent for Business and Support Services Michael Abild.
Abild said the wage and salary increases, along with associated increases in payroll taxes and other employer contributions, represent the single largest increase in operating expenditures for 2011.
The school district will continue taxing $1.04 on the maintenance and operations (M&O) side of the budget, but reduced the debt service side of the tax rate by two cents to 31 cents due to a reduction in debt payments this year.
The trouble ahead, said school officials, is on the M&O side. Since 2005, the state legislature has allowed school districts to tax a maximum of $1.04 for operations. If school districts want to tax more, they need voter approval. But the school district couldn’t add more than two “golden pennies” to the tax rate without having to pay into the state’s funding equalization system.
“SMCISD will continue to experience budget pressures, particularly in the areas of wages, utilities, insurance, and fuel,” Abild said. “Absent additional state funding or additional taxing authority, it’s unlikely the district will be able to provide future pay increases and balance future budgets without the use of reserves. Access to the remaining two golden pennies, either by voter approval or legislation, would provide the district with approximately $1 million of additional revenue based on current year estimates.”
In March and July, trustees talked briefly about the golden pennies. In March, Abild told trustees that if they decided to make a try for the golden pennies, they should identify the most “strategically-advantageous” date on which to hold such an election.
“Hopefully, it would be before the deadline for approving the budget, which would be August 31, and (it) would probably benefit the district to hold the election shortly after teachers return to the district, (which would be) mid to late August,” said Abild to trustees in March.
San Marcos CISD District 4 Trustee and Board President Kathy Hansen said in July that the district would probably not attempt to get voter approval this year for the golden pennies because elections are expensive and the budget would be balanced without the need for additional revenue.
“Our goal is to help people out, and if we don’t need the money…,” Hansen said.
In July, Hansen said the Texas Legislature should allow more flexibility for districts to increase tax rates without voter approval.
“I think they should do some kind of study to see what districts are needing out there, and then raise the cap to that point, statewide,” Hansen said.
Hansen it has been several years since legislators deliberated about the cap.
“I’m definitely going to write mine to say, ‘Please look at this again,’” Hansen said.
Total state funding for the district’s FY 2011 budget is $22,655,735, about 39 percent of general operating funds, compared to this year’s $21,272,184. Total federal funding for FY 2011 was budgeted at $2,673,750 compared to this year’s $2,525,500.
General fund expenditures for FY 2011 will be $57,437,809, up from this year’s $57,084,248. The only line item expenditures that were not increased in the general fund were for guidance and counseling ($2,091,225 in FY 2010 and $2,036,751 in 2011), community service ($168,517 in 2010 and $85,022 in 2011) and debt services ($765,253 in 2010 and $612,598 in 2011).
The school district budgeted $3,560,104 in special revenue fund expenses for FY 2011, an increase from this year’s $3,443,645. Special revenue fund revenues come from local, state, and federal sources and are used for food services and facility plant maintenance and operations. The state and federal government also pay into the school district’s general fund.
The school district budgeted $10,055,990 in debt service fund revenues and $10,044,914 in debt service fund expenditures for FY 2011. The district budgeted $10,893,105 in debt service fund revenues and $10,685,240 in debt service fund expenditures this budget year.Email | Print