This is a very difficult column to write because I need to speak to you about a topic that is most unpopular—property taxes. San Saba ISD adopted a budget that will call for a Tax Ratification Election. Most people know this type of election as a “roll back election”. The term “roll back” means, if the Tax Ratification Election fails, the tax rate will roll back to the previous years rate. The election, scheduled for October 6, 2009, will provide taxpayers the opportunity to vote for a tax rate of $1.17 for Maintenance and Operations and to ratify the previous $.09 rate for Interest and Sinking for a total tax rate of $1.26 per $100 of property value.
Many school districts across Texas are struggling financially because the current state system of funding schools is flawed. Constructing a school finance system that will provide equity to all of the state’s school children is difficult. As state legislators work to come up with this system of equity, school districts are left to ask for assistance from local taxpayers. State legislation (House Bill 1) originally understood to hold school districts harmless at 2005-2006 funding levels, also meant that the state’s funding for public schools is frozen at 2005-06 funding levels, too. Although the cost for fuel, utilities, employee compensation, insurance and the like continue to rise, an inflationary factor is not available in the current finance system. In spite of making cuts in personnel, programs and daily expenses, the San Saba ISD remains in a funding dilemma. The ISD is experiencing decreasing enrollment. Although we decreased our staff proportionally, some expenses are fixed regardless of enrollment. The number of students that are enrolled in our schools generate dollars. If student enrollment drops so does the revenue that supports the school programs and the operations of the school district. Based on the enrollment and the economic climate at the time, the ISD built the Armadillo Arena and the Central Office building. These buildings are very much needed and are used daily in the operations of our District. The payments on these two buildings are made from the same general budget that pays for daily instruction. The increased tax rate will offset the cost of the payment on these two buildings, pay them off sooner, as well as make up funding the District is short due to the state funding system and decreasing enrollment. Although our appraised value may be increasing, the amount of funding the ISD can receive is capped due to state legislation. The total amount of revenue is fixed and the state and local dollars fluctuate in percentage to meet the fixed cap. As property values increase, the state pays less revenue and the reverse is true as well. If property values are low, then the state contributes more. However, the state will provide additional dollars if we exceed our current rate of $1.04. Under the current system of school finance, the state will contribute additional dollars on a tax rate but not the appraised value. The ISD receives additional dollars through increased student enrollment or an increased tax rate.
We are hosting two information sessions that will provide an opportunity for all interested parties to gain information about the election. September 15 and September 29 will be the dates of these two sessions. We will host the first session in the San Saba High School Cafeteria after the campuses hold their event that will feature, meet the principal, a CSCOPE overview and an open house. The second session will also be held at the SSHS Cafeteria as well. The information sessions will begin at 6:30 pm and last approximately one hour.
As always, I encourage you to come speak with me about the election or any other concern you have regarding San Saba ISD. Please remember that our website is the key to keeping up-to-date on school happenings. Please visit www.san-saba.net to view events and find information you need to know about SSISD. Please take the chance to visit with our students and staff and give them a pat on the back. They are working so hard to make you proud of our community and of San Saba ISD. Please save the date – September 15 - we will be hosting a Meet the Principal/ CSCOPE parent meeting and Open House. If you have any questions about this article or any other question about school happenings please contact me at 325/372-3144.