BY JUDY SHERIDAN
Aledo Independent School District trustees are considering a 12—13-cent tax rate hike — from $1.4252 to $1.5475 per $100 assessed valuation — for the upcoming school year.
The new rate, recommended by school administrators, would add about $300 to the tax bill of the owner of a $250,000 home.
The current rate has remained unchanged since 2008-09. It is composed of two parts, a debt service rate of $25.52 cents and a maintenance and operations rate of $1.17.
In a budget workshop Aug. 5, school board members informally agreed to publish the proposed rate in a public notice Aug. 16, as the law requires, and asked administrators to assemble a committee to compose a message explaining the board’s rationale for the increase to the public.
Once the rate is published, trustees might choose to approve the entire increase or some lesser amount, but they cannot approve a higher rate.
Trustees could still decide to mitigate or postpone a tax rate increase by using monies from the general fund balance.
Last year the board decided to deplete both general fund and debt service fund balances to increase pay for teachers and avoid a tax increase.
However, the general fund actually increased over the year due to higher-than-expected revenues and lower-than-expected expenditures.
Debt Service Fund
Administrators say the proposed increase would restore the debt-service portion of the tax rate. That portion was reduced in 2010 when voters approved a Tax Ratification Election, allowing the portion of the tax rate that fuels operations to increase. The swap preserved staff and programs threatened by state funding reductions without increasing the overall tax rate.
Since then, the district has tapped the debt service fund balance to meet bond payments, according to budget figures presented by Chief Financial Officer Earl Husfeld, who now estimates that the fund balance will reach $552,000 — the minimum recommended by financial advisors — by Aug. 31.
The proposed 2013-14 rate increase stems from the difference between estimated revenue and debt payments.
“In 13-14, we’re estimating revenues at $6.4 million and pretty well know our payments are almost $9.6 million, so there’s an almost $3.2 million difference we need to derive from one of two sources,” Husfeld told the board, “increasing the debt service portion of our tax rate, transferring funds from the general fund balance, or some combination of the two.
“Based on the numbers here, it would take a $37.55-cent [debt service] tax rate to cover that $3.2 million difference.”