SSISD board holds line on taxes
Projected rates to pay off proposed bond could be lowered, finance director says

From Staff Reports

Aug. 17, 2004 -- The new tax rate at Sulphur Springs Independent School District will hold steady at $1.50465, the same rate as in the 2003-2004 school year, in order to support the anticipated $27.4 million budget board members are working with school financial officials to firm up before Aug. 30, according to Superintendent Patsy Bolton.

The board made this decision Monday night following a special called session to work on the budget for the 2004-2005 school year.

"The important thing to note from the meeting is that the tax rate will stay the same," Bolton said Tuesday morning. "It will be $1.50465, the same as in the past year, to fund the budget that will be adopted later on this month."

The school board will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, to finish firming up the 2004-2005 budget, and will hold a public hearing regarding the budget at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30. The board is then slated to convene at 7 p.m. to adopt the new budget.

"What we are looking at right now is $27,365,123 for the budget," Bolton said. "Salaries and pay always make up the majority of the budget, the largest percentage. We're still working on that."

Two areas regarding personnel that the board members are focusing on are meeting requirements outlined in the state salary schedule and offering salaries and pay scales which are competitive with those in other districts in the area.

"We're just going to go back through the budget like we did this past week," Bolton said. "The board met the first time a week ago last week [Aug. 16 following the regular board meeting]. We have not gone through it line by line, and we'll be doing that. We want to make sure we have all the areas that are absolutely necessary for the success of teachers and students and see what areas we need to change."

While the tax rate won't increase this year, that would change if voters approve a bond issue. The election on the two bonds - a $29.98 million proposal which includes extensive renovations and construction of a new third through fifth grade facility, and a $3.5 million bond for a multipurpose building for extracurricular activities and programs - will be held Sept. 11.

Currently, the average value of a home in SSISD is $65,000, which translates to an annual tax bill of $978. SSISD Finance Director Miki Eddins estimates the new tax rate after issuing the bonds will be $1.69657. The estimated increase would be $125 a year the average home, or an annual bill of $1,102.78.

The owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $192 a year more under that projected tax rate.

A more conservative estimated by bond consultant Dan Almon with Southwest Securities projects a slightly higher tax increase to $1.69661 in 2005, which would raise the tax bill by about the same amounts as in the SSISD estimates. Almon also projects the rate will climb to $1.75190 in 2006. That would raise the average home's tax levy to $1,138.74, up $160.74 from the current tax bill.

SSISD officials believe the cost could be less, however. In the past, the district has received about 40 percent of the money it uses to pay off debt from the state in the form of what is called an Existing Debt Allotment.

"There is no guarantee that this will continue," Eddins said. "However, lots of districts in Texas depend on EDA money, and many districts would be in severe trouble without it."

The legislature also may ultimately pass legislation that affects property taxes.

"There is lots of talk about this, but no guarantee," Eddins said, and added, "We are not comfortable at this time predicting what the state will do, but these are possibilities."

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