Early school board will ask voters to OK 'tax swap' in fall vote

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Interim Superintendent Larry Taylor talks to board members about the tax ratification election Monday night.

EARLY — Early school board members agreed Monday night to ask voters to approve a tax ratification election this fall that would be, according to Interim Superintendent Larry Taylor,  a "tax swap" rather than a true tax increase for the 2014-'15 school year.

If voters approve the tax ratification election — often referred to as a TRE — it would enable the district to be be eligible for an additional $690,000 in state funds, Taylor said.

After Taylor presented a dizzying array of numbers in a public hearing, board members took a series of actions related to the tax rate and TRE, which will be Sept. 6.

Board members will ask voters to approve a total tax rate of just under $1.53 per $100 valuation. If voters approve the TRE, the district will lower the bonded indebtedness portion of the tax rate by 13 cents and shift it to the maintenance and operation portion, Taylor said — hence the "tax swap," resulting in a tax rate of just under $1.40 per $100 valuation and no increase in property owners' tax bills.

The district can't shift the 13 cents from bonded indebtedness to maintenance and operation without voter approval because that portion of the tax rate is already at $1.04 per $100 valuation. The district needs voter approval to raise it beyond that level, Taylor said.

"I don't think the Early ISD can wait any longer for the state to come up with an equitable solution to school finance," Taylor said. "I think we've come to a fork in the road — and that fork is whether or not to adopt, again, a deficit budget or go tot he voters for a tax ratification election."

Taylor said he's observed, in his four months as interim superintendent, that the Early district has "cut all the discretionary areas you can really cut. … If the TRE does not pass, we're looking at having to make changes and/or cuts in our programs."

The district will end the current fiscal year with a fund balance of $1.6 million, and it needs to be about $2.5 million — three months of operating funds, Taylor said.

If voters approve the TRE, the deficit will be gone, Taylor said.