Miller Grove voters kill proposed tax rate

District one of 120 in Texas seeking rate above state mandate

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Nov 7, 2007 - Voters in Miller Grove Independent School District have had their say, and according to the first unofficial count, the proposed school tax rate was not approved during Tuesday’s election.

The measure failed by about 10 votes, with about 160 people casting ballots in the rollback election, leaving school administrators and board members with some tough decisions to make regarding the school’s finances.

MGISD Superintendent Steve Johnson said he’s disappointed and was a bit shocked by the result, as the only negative comments voiced to him had been from senior citizens age 65 and over, whose taxes have been “frozen,” expressing concern over their appraisal values going up and the affect that will have on their tax payments.

To meet budget needs, school officials asked voters to approve a tax higher than the amount legislation set for the school tax, noting that the rate is actually still lower than last year’s tax rates, Johnson noted.

Last year, Miller Grove tax payers shelled out $1.44 per $100 worth of property value, which included $1.29 for maintenance and operations. This year, the state required districts reduce their maintenance and operation tax rate to $1.04 per $100 valuation, unless voters approve a higher rate through a rollback election.

Voters were asked to approve a higher M&O tax rate of $1.17, still 12 cents less than they paid last year. By paying 12 cents less than last year, the district could have generated $110,173 in additional funds, with over half of that amount coming from the state based on school finance formulas, according to Johnson.

Miller Grove Independent School District was one of 120 districts in Texas which held a rollback election this year in hopes of generating “additional funds to continue to provide a quality education for our children.

Johnson said the school board had prepared for the possibility the higher rate would not receive voter approval.

�We did the budget at $1.04, and we�ll continue on, but it�s going to be tight," he said. "We�re just going to keep our fingers crossed there are no major catastrophes. The latter part of the year, we�ll have to keep an eye out and see how things are going."

District officials called for the election earlier this year to help continue to fund existing district operations without having to make any additional personnel or program cuts,  Johnson explained in a letter mailed to district tax payers prior to the early voting period.

�The State and Federal governments continue to add more and more demands on school districts without providing additional monies to help pay for the new mandates. These demands, coupled with declining enrollment and increasing costs of goods and utilities, create a financial challenge for the District to maintain a balanced budget,� Johnson noted in the letter.

Four staff and faculty positions were cut in the spring to reduce costs, and with the failed rollback tax election, more may be required if more money cannot be raised to support the district, Johnson said prior to the election. School officials believed that further reductions in personnel “will have a negative impact on our students.”

The question now will be what cuts, if any, the district will have to implement in order to finance school operations for the rest of the school year.

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