In the face of a pandemic that will dramatically shift how instructors interact with students—and all of the challenges that come with that—Pflugerville ISD officials will lower the district’s property tax rate for the third straight year.

The PfISD board of trustees on July 16 approved a maximum posted tax rate of $1.4364 per $100 valuation. Last year, the district adopted a rate of $1.45 per $100 valuation, which at the time represented the largest year-over-year decrease in the district’s tax rate in more than a decade.

The tax rate for the 2020-21 school year will likely still result in higher property tax bills for district homeowners, however, as PfISD Chief Operating Officer Ed Ramos reported the district’s total property value is expected to rise to $16.3 billion. That total value represents a 9% increase from the previous school year, according to district documents.

This posted tax rate will now head to a public hearing Aug. 20. PfISD officials may not ratify a higher tax rate than one approved, but they may adopt a lower rate.

Ramos suggested to the board that is likely to happen, as the district does not have its maintenance and operation tax rate. For the 2020-21 school year, that rate will be calculated for the district by the Texas Education Agency, Ramos said. PfISD expects to receive that calculation from the state by the first week of August.

In Texas, school districts’ tax rates are typically made of two separate tax rates. The maintenance and operation rate pays for daily operations and facility maintenance, while the interest and sinking rate pays for debt incurred by the district to pay for facility construction and upgrades, according to the TEA.

When the district receives its maintenance and operation rate calculation from the state, Ramos told trustees he expects to propose a lower total property tax rate.

“We feel that our tax rate will fall closer to the $1.40 [per $100 valuation] range,” Ramos said.

PfISD is aiming to adopt its 2020-21 property tax rate at the board of trustees meeting scheduled for Aug. 20 alongside the district’s budget, Ramos told trustees.

Budget projections

In his presentation to trustees on July 16, Ramos provided early 2020-21 budget projections for the district.

“Creating and finalizing a budget in a pandemic is seriously challenging,” Ramos said.

Overall, Ramos projected PfISD’s operation budget will increase to $259.6 million, nearly $10 million higher than the district’s current operating budget. The cost per student will rise by $200 to $9,686.

Payroll for the district’s staff and faculty continues to take up the dominant chunk of PfISD’s budget. Before Gov. Greg Abbott mandated schools close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in March, PfISD trustees approved a 3% pay increase across the board for staff and faculty. That stands to be one of the more substantial pay rate increases across the Austin area.

District documents show that 3% raise will cost the district an additional $6.9 million in the next school year’s budget. New positions created across the district are expected to account for an additional $3.8 million, bringing the total payroll pool up to $227.2 million.

Payroll stands to account for 87% of PfISD’s budget next year, district documents show.

Ramos said he expects to trim $3.2 million in operational budget costs from next year’s budget.

“We’re looking at all of our operating budgets and making sure we’re tightening those budgets as much as we can,” Ramos said.