MG school officials seek a tax increase

State, federal mandates, higher costs and declining enrollment create a need for more money

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct 15, 2007 - Miller Grove taxpayers should be receiving letters from the school district within the next few days explaining why their recently mailed tax bills were considerably less than should be expected.

The reason? They were incomplete because the district is awaiting the results of a special election in November to determine the property tax rate.

The rollback tax election was requested by district officials to help fund school operations without further spending cuts.

�The State and Federal governments continue to add more and more demands on school districts without providing additional monies to help pay for these new mandates,� MGISD Superintendent Steve Johnson wrote in the letter, which he said was mailed at the end of last week. "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."

Some costs continue to rise despite the district's attempts to cut back on spending, such as elecricity. Johnson said the district has used 20.2 percent less electricity, but paid only 16 percent less. He also noted that four staff and faculty positions were cut in the spring to reduce costs. More may be required if more money cannot be raised, but school officials believe further reductions in personnel “will have a negative impact on our students.”

This year, state law mandates Texas school districts must reduce their maintenance and operation tax to $1.04 per $100 valuation, unless voters approve a higher rate through a rollback election.

School officials are asking taxpayers to approve a higher M&O tax rate of $1.17 per $100 property value, which is still 12 cents less than they paid last year. By paying 12 cents less than last year and 13 cents more than the state mandates, the district would receive an additional $110,173, with over half of that amount coming from the state based on school finance formulas, according to Johnson. If the proposed M&O rate is approved, Miller Grove ISD taxpayers would pay $1.32 in school taxes per $100 property value, with $1.17 going toward M&O and $.015 to I&S.

The proposed rate voters in the district will consider is still considerably lower than the previous year’s tax rates, Johnson noted.

Last year, Miller Grove taxpayers shelled out $1.44 per $100 property value. Of that, $1.29 went toward maintenance and operations costs while the $0.15 interest and sinking tax went toward repaying bonds which financed the new high school and gym. (I&S funds can only be used to pay off bonded indebtedness.)

Miller Grove is one of 120 districts in Texas holding a rollback election this year in hopes of generating more money.

To help residents better understand the proposed rate and the rollback election, Superintendent Johnson mailed the letters to all taxpayers. If residents haven’t already received them, they should expect to get the letter in the mail within the next few days.

A meeting will also be held in the school gymnasium at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, to give Miller Grove ISD residents and taxpayers an opportunity to ask questions and hear explanations regarding the issue, Johnson noted.

The superintendent also encourages taxpayers to “feel free to call or come by and see me at the school, and I will try my best to answer any concerns you have.”

The school phone number is 903-459-3288.

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