PfISD taxpayers could be voting on a reduced tax rate this fall, and other takeaways from the June 21 board of trustees meeting

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Two possible ballot measures could be on the horizon this November for Pflugerville ISD voters. At a June 21 PfISD board of trustees meeting trustees discussed a possible tax rate reduction for the 2018-19 fiscal year as well as the latest updates from the districts’ Citizens Facility Advisory Committee tasked with prioritizing projects for a 2018 bond proposal. Here are the latest updates from the school district.

A tax rate reduction could be on a November ballot

Chief Financial Officer Ed Ramos briefed the PfISD board of trustees on the school district’s finances as it approaches the start of a new fiscal year. PfISD’s tax rate is comprised of a maintenance and operations tax rate, or M&O, and a debt services tax rate, which goes towards paying off bond debts. The two rates added together form PfISD’s tax rate.

Ramos proposed a “tax swap” that would increase PfISD’s M&O tax rate by .02 cents while decreasing the debt services tax rate by .04 cents, resulting in an .02 overall reduction in taxes paid by district residents. This would reduce the total tax rate from $1.54 to $1.52, resulting in an estimated $60 of savings for residents with a $300,000 home. The district has the ability to perform this swap because it is nearly finished paying off its debts from its most recent bond in 2014, Ramos said.

Ramos said the tax swap would trigger a $4 million increase in funding from the state through the Texas Education Association’s “Golden Pennies” program. The Golden Pennies program allocates state funds to school districts that have paid off a large enough portion of their bond debt to to afford re-allocating some of the district’s tax collection back to the M&O rate.

Should the trustees approve the proposed swap it will trigger a November election. Superintendent Doug Killian said the board has until mid-September to decide if the district will pursue the swap.

Remaining 2014 bond funds being spent on final projects

As PfISD approaches paying off the last of its 2014 bond, the final remaining projects funded by it are underway. The board voted in favor of hiring Braun & Butler Construction to serve as the general contractor for the addition of new concession stands at the baseball and softball fields at John B. Connally High School.

Mentions of 2018 bond seeking to address growth

While there were no agenda items directly related to discussing a 2018 bond proposal, the topic was raised several times in relation to other items. If the district pursues a November 2018 bond election, Killian said the main motivation will be addressing PfISD’s rapid population growth. According to the city demographer, PfiSD is expected to add 798 students during the 2018 school year with about 40 percent attending elementary school, Ramos said.

One of the early indications of the bond proposal’s direction is a desire from the CFAC to see funding for to two to three new elementary schools and a new middle school, Killian said. Additions of new schools could also result in updated feeder patterns. The committee will not make a final recommendation to the board however until July 19, at which point the trustees will begin discussing whether or not they will call a November election.

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  1. If the school district is taking in so much tax money that they can afford to reduce the tax rate, then why are they talking about a new bond this coming November to build new schools? This is supposed to be a school district that teaches our kids, but what they’re teaching the general public is that it’s OK to go back deep into debt after you just got out of debt! We should be teaching our kids to live within their means.

    • Other PFL Parent

      Just because they take in enough $ to lower the tax rate, doesn’t mean they take in *enough* money to build schools. You can’t build enough schools (and pay for all the things in the schools) for the difference between what they currently take in and the reduced rate. They’re not teaching anyone “…it’s OK to go back deep into debt…” That should not be the takeaway at all. (Side note: you can teach kids to “live within their means” without having to learn about school bond issues and public allocation of tax funding…personal finance and community finance are pretty different.)

      School buildings are expensive. It’s sort of like having a mortgage…I mean, maybe you paid cash for your $300,000 house, but it’s not likely. Same kind of situation applies here.

      So, front a bond so kids have safe places to learn that aren’t overcrowded or overrun with portables, or just keep cramming ’em into existing buildings? I choose the former.

      • Another PFL Parent

        Maybe instead of wasting our tax dollars building facilities that aren’t needed (Pfield for one) they could spend that money on building schools that are needed. Hmmmm then our tax rate and their debt would not be effected!

  2. That new stadium they built cost more than the new school that they built next to it! And last year they decided to bus the kids from Hendrickson and Connally high schools to use it for varsity football, when both schools already have their own perfectly good stadiums with recently renovated playing fields. That was all about ego, and the voters were forced to vote for that bond package because Hendrickson was badly overcrowded. They also paid twice as much money for Weiss High School, as compared to Hendrickson built just ten years earlier, when both schools are of comparable size. What else needs to be said about the financial management of this school district? Living within your means doesn’t mean that kids will suffer overcrowding and such, it just means managing your finances well, and getting ahead of the growth curve. If the developers want to build more houses here, let them pay for new schools, fire stations, and other infrastructure necessary to support growth. Traffic is getting ridiculous in this town, “Help Wanted” signs are posted in many business windows, and the city is handing out incentives for big companies like Costco to move here and make traffic worse? This city isn’t managing growth very well, and the school district feels the heat. We’ve got something close to 60,000 people living here now, no public transportation whatsoever, and not even any sidewalks on FM 685 between Walmart and Stone Hill Town Center. Sometimes on a busy weekend it can take 20 minutes to make a left turn into Stone Hill Center by the Water Park. Yet they somehow find enough money to loan to a private businessman to build a water park that was supposed to turn this city into some kind of tourist destination years ago. (That’s what our former mayor bragged was going to happen.) Backing the loan for that water park caused the city’s credit rating to crash, and the extra interest is paid by all tax payers. And look at all the other empty promises that we have received from PCDC over the years of big businesses coming to Pflugerville that were going to reduce our property taxes – like a billion dollar mixed use development just south of the water park, a big data center behind Home Depot, etc. The former president of PCDC told us right here in this CI newspaper something like, “If we don’t take your tax money, somebody else will, so you might as well give it to us”. The same taxpayer funded organization was giving away money to any shark-tank type business that wanted to get something going here in Pflugerville. One guy even got taxpayer money to start selling his own brand of BBQ Sauce, I kid you not. Just go through the CI archives and you’ll find all kinds of such nutty investments that were cooked up in Las Vegas with taxpayer money. (Yes, PCDC used to spend YOUR tax money “advertising” Pflugerville opportunities in Vegas. Wouldn’t that money be better spent supporting the schools?) Organic growth is fine, but you should never borrow money for growth, or hand out tax incentives for new businesses to move here. Pull the financial rug out from underneath PCDC ASAP (that is collecting some of our sales tax) and use it to build more schools, not issue more bonds!

    • Another Taxpayer

      Longtime resident here (1984) and I love everything you just said. I think it is so ridiculous that the city owns a water park. And for a while a water park that wasn’t getting lease payments. Last I checked that was NOT in the description of what a city is supposed to provide to it’s taxpaying citizens! The last mayor was shady dealing all over the place. He even got special treatment to build his restaurant across the street from city hall. We see how well that turned out. How could we expect anything better from his running of the city.

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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Northwest Austin reporter. She is also responsible for citywide health care and entertainment coverage. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism in May 2017.
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