By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 21, 2015) — Stephenville ISD has a proposed tax strategy that superintendent Matt Underwood believes will boost technology resources for students and keep the district “ahead of the financial curve.”
Underwood plans to ask SISD trustees to call for a November rollback election, formally known as a tax ratification election, asking voters to authorize a tax swap that would bring $360,000 in additional state funds to the district.
It’s an effort to “maximize state funding in this year as well as subsequent years,” Underwood explained in a prepared statement Tuesday. “Stephenville ISD currently administers two tax rates, the first rate funding the district’s maintenance and operating budget ($1.04), the second funding the payment to meet current debt obligations (.1949).”
During their regular monthly meeting Monday, trustees approved a rate of $1.17 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations, and $0.1946 for debt obligations, known as interest and sinking.
“A vote by citizens residing within the Stephenville ISD boundaries could enable the district to move 13 cents from the debt obligation side to the maintenance and operation side,” said Underwood.
Such a tax swap would make up the increase in operations taxes and yield additional state funding because the state offers more money for operations than for debt.
“This would allow the district to receive an additional $360,000 in state funds for the upcoming tax year without changing the overall tax rate,” reads the statement.
But first, the proposed rate must become official. Trustees will vote on the proposed rate after the required public hearing during their next regular meeting on Aug. 17. The next move would be to call for the election and set the exact date.
Tax ratification elections have become a staple in school finance. When Taylor ISD (a suburban district east of Austin) was preparing for its rollback election and tax swap in 2012, TaylorPress.net reported that 366 school districts had held such an election since 2006 when the school funding formula changed.
The additional money from the state will be used to help the district keep up with ever-changing technology, something Underwood has made a priority in his first year leading SISD. He has even positioned the district as a member of the 2015-16 leadership cohort for the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.
“The funds will be earmarked to enhance the availability of technology resources for the students of SISD,” the statement says. “The district would also be ahead of the financial curve leading into a possible called special legislative session to address school finance.”