BY JUDY SHERIDAN
By press time last week, Aledo ISD trustees had not yet set the tax rate for the FY 2013-14 budget but were expected to do so during regular session last night.
Setting the rate was an action item on the Monday, Sept. 16, agenda. State statutes call for the rate to be set within 60 days of the district’s receipt of its certified values, a Sept. 25 deadline, according to school administrators.
The FY 2013-14 general fund budget adopted Aug. 26 included $38.7 million in expenditures and $36.7 million in revenues. The approved debt service budget was balanced at a level of $9.6 million, including a $1.6 million infusion from the general fund.
After six years of the same $1.42 per $100 assessed valuation tax rate, trustees published a possible rate nearly 13 cents higher in a notice announcing a public hearing on the budget this year.
Instead, the board adopted a budget fueled by a 6.5-cent increase, but delayed setting the tax rate to discuss options with the community.
About 30 residents attended a public forum Tuesday, Sept. 10, to hear a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Earl Husfeld, ask questions and offer opinions.
Mary Frances Wood targeted the “$27 million football stadium,” saying residents were told that it would pay for itself as other districts staged their playoff games there.
“How much money have we made since the stadium’s been built?” she asked. “Is the district paying all the utilities that support the games, or do the schools that come and play have to pay the operating costs?”
Husfeld said the stadium cost $10 million to $11 million, with the entire complex in the $13 million to $14 million range.
Trustee Steve Bartley said that during the 2012 football season, the district generated $276,000 in revenue from the football program.
Husfeld said ticket sales and stadium rental fees make football “more than a break-even,” but added that the recent UIL alignment had caused walk-up ticket sales to drop by half.
David Denman told trustees he was surprised at the district’s $400,000 payment to the Parker County Appraisal District — which Husfeld said was common — and shocked that the district spends 50 cents on debt service per every dollar of instruction.
“I think we should think long and hard before we get into a deeper hole,” he said. Husfeld replied that a new high school was 10 years away, based on current numbers.
Denman said he was not opposed to his taxes going up, but was opposed to the “breach of trust” that happened when a former AISD superintendent said — in the newspaper — that the 2010 tax ratification election wouldn’t affect taxes or bond payments.
“It looks like in 2010 it was pretty clear that it was going to have to affect the bond payments and it was going to have to affect the tax rate,” he said. “So I guess my question is, how could it not have affected our tax rate?”
Trustee Johnny Campbell replied that if the valuations after 2010-11 had continued to trend upward — as they did in the four years prior to 2010-11 — the situation would have been much different.
“We were squeezed by something we flat did not know about,” he said.
“The superintendent led the community to believe something that was not the case,” Denman continued. “Let’s not hide the issue, and let’s talk about that taxes need to go up because we want great schools.“I would recommend that we revert back to the old rate and deal with the election on a fair and transparent basis and let everybody decide what they really want.”
Farida Goderya, a City of Fort Worth employee who said she was comfortable with numbers, asked the board to take “a good hard look” at efficiency.
“When I look at the classroom expenditures, they are pretty much consistent or have gone down,” she said, “but the other gentleman mentioned that all other functions have drastically increased — from $13 million to $17 million — and it keeps going up. “I don’t know if you have really taken a good hard look over all other expenses or not, but it doesn’t seem like that.”
Trustee Hoyt Harris said the district had opened two new campuses since 2007, to which Goderya replied that the campuses should then have been reflected in classroom instruction costs.
Husfeld attributed the increases to changes mandated by the state, higher utility costs due to the new campuses and Texas Education Agency accounting changes. Goderya said the “a little bit shocking” increases were also reflected in expenditures per student enrollment — a 10.3 percent increase projected next year from the current year, with almost all of it due to the all other functions category, not classroom instruction.
Husfeld said most of the increase was due to adding back positions and increasing the salaries of staff uninvolved with instruction.
“I know it’s kind of hard times,” Goderya concluded, ”but I see this as an opportunity — and I know that we have done it in our households all over our city — but take a good hard look at the numbers and expenses and try to balance the revenues against the expenses.
“Because this is probably not the best or only solution sometimes to go with a tax rate hike. Probably quite a few of us can afford it, but that’s not sustainable.”
Stringer invited all present to attend monthly school board meetings, where he said the board goes through the budget line by line.
“This board takes its business seriously,” he said, “and more importantly, this board takes the children of this district extremely seriously.”
Charlie Hayes, a resident of Stone Bluff in Aledo, said he wanted to talk about “need versus greed.”
“If you look at the campus around Aledo High School, it looks like a college campus,” he said, spotlighting the indoor football facility.
“Do we need the very best of everything, the fanciest light pole that money can buy? Is there some compromise that we can do?”
Campbell replied that he had not yet made his mind up on the tax increase and was trying to find a solution, a sentiment echoed later by Board President Jay Stringer.
BY JUDY SHERIDAN
- Aledo ExtrA
Hitting the trail for MS
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Parker County man killed in single-vehicle wreck
A 60-year-old Parker County man was killed around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in a one-vehicle crash in the 2100 block of FM Road 3325, also known as Farmer Road.
Aledo City Council Place 4 candidates for May 10 election
Early voting for the May 10 general election begins April 28. Following is some information gathered from the candidates for the Place 4 Aledo City Council seat. Aledo Mayor Kit Marshall is running for re-election unopposed.
Aledo City Council Place 2 candidates
Early voting for the May 10 general election begins April 28. Following is some information gathered from the candidates running for the Aledo City Council Place 2 seat. Aledo Mayor Kit Marshall is running for re-election unopposed.
USAF heroes to Ride for Heroes
The 12th annual Ride for Heroes bike ride this Saturday in Aledo will include some VIPs: members of the United States Air Force Cycling Team.
FM 5 intersection makeover
City of Willow Park officials were recently told that a planned reconstruction of the intersection of Interstate 20 frontage roads and FM Road 5 now has funding from the state and is moving ahead.
Bearcat Bootcamp holds successful fundraiser
Bearcat Bootcamp, an Aledo fitness organization, held its first 1-mile Fun Run and Back the Bearcats 5K race April 5.
Hearing held for Annetta Crime Control District
The Crime Control and Prevention District proposed for the Town of Annetta — which voters have the chance to accept or reject in the May 10 election — moved forward last week with an April 7 public hearing.
Candidate forums set for May 10 election
The East Parker County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee will host a Candidates’ Forum at 7 p.m. Monday, April 28, in the cafeteria of Trinity Christian Academy, 4954 East Interstate 20 Service Rd S, Willow Park.
Calendar of events
The East Parker County Genealogy and Historical Society invites all who are interested to join them for their monthly meeting and salad luncheon beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the Willow Park Community Center, Ranch House Rd. and Stage Coach Trail. The program will be a computerized photography collage of Parker County photos by Lorena Friddle, president of the Parker County Women’s and Newcomer’s Society, and a 1930s video of the El Chico Ranch in Willow Park donated by early resident Bob Rothel. The video was made when his father was the ranch foreman. If time allows there will be a showing of an 1920s movie of Aledo donated by the King family.
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