Early voting begins Monday: 10 questions answered about Magnolia ISD’s Tax Ratification Election

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the county precincts allowed to vote at each Election Day polling location, according to Montgomery County election information.

The Magnolia ISD board of trustees will ask voters Aug. 14 to approve a Tax Ratification Election, which would provide the district with more funds for its day-to-day operations without increasing the total tax rate.

Early voting for the election begins Monday, July 30, and runs through Friday, Aug. 10.

Election Day is Tuesday, Aug. 14.

As the election is the first TRE in MISD’s history, here is a closer look at what the TRE would mean for the district and its residents if approved by voters in August, according to district officials.

  1. What is the district asking me to approve?

The Tax Ratification Election asks voters to approve a 10-cent tax swap, which would provide the district more operational funds without increasing the total tax rate, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Erich Morris said.  The tax swap would increase the maintenance and operations portion of the tax rate by 10 cents by subtracting 10 cents from the interest and sinking portion of the total tax rate, holding the overall tax rate at $1.3795 per $100 valuation.

The I&S rate funds only repayment of debts while the M&O rate can fund daily operations as well as debt repayment, Morris said.

Even though the total tax rate is not increasing, MISD must seek voter approval to increase its M&O rate above $1.04 per $100 valuation, according to state law, Morris said. If approved, the new M&O rate would total $1.14 per $100 valuation.

The maximum voter-approved M&O rate allowed by law is $1.17 per $100 valuation, Morris said.

2. Will my tax bill increase?

Passage of the TRE will not affect the district’s overall tax rate, Morris said. The tax rate will remain at $1.3795 per $100 valuation.

Although rising property values in Montgomery County could lead to a higher property tax bill, MISD’s total property tax rate will not change with the results of the election, Morris said.

3. Why does the ballot only mention that the proposed tax rate is 10 cents higher if the district is not increasing its property tax rate?

According to district information, state law only allows MISD to tell voters that the M&O rate is increasing. The ballot cannot include wording that the I&S rate is also being lowered.

4. Why does the district need more operational funds?

Although MISD’s fiscal year 2018-19 budget avoids a deficit—regardless of whether the TRE is approved by voters—Morris said the district would struggle to meet program and staffing needs if the election fails.

Approval of the TRE would provide the district about $4 million more in funding to meet operational needs, Morris said.

MISD is seeking additional funding via the TRE because the district—like districts across the state—has seen the state’s share of its funding decrease over the last several years as local property revenue has increased, resulting in essentially no change in its overall revenue from year to year, Morris said.

According to the state funding formula for public school districts, local property tax revenue makes up the first share of the district’s funding per student. As local revenue increases, the state’s share decreases.

In MISD, local funding has grown from about 49 percent of revenues in FY 2011-12 to about 65 percent in FY 2018-19. State funding has fallen from about 50.5 percent of revenues to 35 percent of revenues during that time, Morris said. Federal funding accounts for the remaining percentage.

5. How will the additional funds be spent?

Morris said the additional $4 million MISD will receive if the TRE is approved would go to salary increases, security improvements, staffing needs, increased campus budgets and program enhancements.

Here is a breakdown of the additional funds:

  • $2.75 million to award 4 percent salary increases to teachers
  • $600,000 to meet staffing needs, such as evaluating student-to-teacher ratios and employing additional staff
  • $400,000 to fund additional security needs
  • $250,000 to increase campus budgets and enhance student programs

Regardless of whether the TRE is approved, the district is prioritizing $1 million in its budget to fund security improvements, Morris said.

6. Will approval of the TRE affect the district’s ability to repay its debt?

No. Morris said the TRE will not affect the district’s debt repayment timeline or the district’s amount of debt. About $3 million received on the M&O side—in addition to the $4 million allotted for district needs— from the tax swap would go to continue paying the district’s debt, which is voter-approved debt from bond referendums passed in 2004 and 2015, Morris said. Funds collected by the M&O rate can go to repay debt as well as support operational costs, he said.

7. If the TRE is approved, could MISD increase its I&S tax rate in the future, therefore increasing the total tax rate?

No. Unless additional debt is approved by voters in the form of a proposed bond referendum, Morris said the district’s I&S tax rate cannot increase above the I&S rollback rate—the amount needed to repay debts. Therefore, any increase in the tax rate would be triggered by voter approval of a bond referendum, he said. According to the existing debt structure, Morris said he does not foresee the I&S tax rate—or the overall tax rate—needing to be increased in the future if the TRE is approved.

8. How much will the district spend to hold the election?

Morris said he estimates the election will cost the district about $30,000 to $35,000, although the exact amount is unknown at this time.

9. If I am paying more in property tax revenue, why does the district need more funding?

Increased property tax revenue—local funding for the district—does not increase the district’s total funding amount per student.

The state allows districts to collect a basic allotment per student. This has remained at $5,140 per pupil since FY 2015-16. As the state has placed a cap on the basic allotment, districts with more local revenue receive fewer state dollars. Residents paying more in property tax to school districts does not mean the districts are receiving more overall funding.

According to the state funding formula for public school districts, local property tax revenue makes up the first share of the district’s funding per student. As local revenue increases, the state’s share decreases.

In MISD, local funding has grown from about 49 percent of revenues in FY 2011-12 to about 65 percent in FY 2018-19. State funding has fallen from about 50.5 percent of revenues to 35 percent of revenues during that time, Morris said.

10. Where can I vote?

Registered voters can cast a ballot at either MISD high school during early voting, July 30-Aug. 10, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

  • Magnolia High School
    14350 FM 1488, Magnolia
  • Magnolia West High School
    42202 FM 1774, Magnolia

Registered voters can cast a ballot at their precinct-specific polling location on Election Day, Aug. 14, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

  • Bear Branch Junior High School
    31310 FM 2978, Magnolia
    (County precincts 3, 6, 34, 61, 69, 76, 81, 89)
  • Magnolia Junior High School
    31138 Nichols Sawmill Road, Magnolia
    (County precincts 13, 18, 28, 29, 65, 66)
  • Magnolia High School
    14350 FM 1488, Magnolia
    (County precincts 30, 74, 90)
  • Magnolia West High School
    42202 FM 1774, Magnolia
    (County precincts 9, 91)
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6 comments
COMMENT
  1. Ginger Russell

    This whole election is nothing but a TAX HIKE SCAM on behalf of Magnolia ISD. They hold a Public Hearing on May 21st at 7:30 AM in the morning on a school day. No one was in attendance. Surely they did not plan it that way. The plan a pro TAX video to show to their teachers prior to summer break to show their teachers/staff and remove it so the public can’t see it until July 9th.

    This is nothing but a scam on the taxpayer.

  2. I’m concerned when I read the words: “…subtracting 10 cents from the interest and sinking portion of the total tax rate,” I’ve never been able to pay less of the interest on our loans, so I am worried that this sounds like ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ type of deal. Which would mean we will be paying more in taxes next year or the year after to make up the new shortfall.

  3. Concerned voter

    Morris said… Morris said… Morris said. Who else was interviewed for this article? Reporters must interview different sources so they can present both sides of an issue. Seems like Impact dropped the ball on this one

  4. Concerned Voter

    When the Superintendent makes more money than the Governor of Texas, he can cut some of his salary for a start to prove to the voters that they are concerned about being so far in debt. MISD has misused funds so why should we the people give them more “pennies” to move around.

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Anna Lotz
Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Tomball and Magnolia communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.
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