Rapid enrollment growth forces district to look at raising rates on homeowners
The Pflugerville ISD board of trustees will consider raising property taxes on district homeowners in order to pay off debts resulting from the district's surging student enrollment.
PISD Superintendent Charles Dupre says he will recommend the board adopt a 6 cent increase in the interest and sinking (I & S) tax rate for the 2012–13 school year. If adopted, the increase would set district taxes at the maximum state-allowed 50 cents per $100 of property valuation. PISD estimates the rate increase would cost the average Pflugerville homeowner $7 per month in additional taxes.
"We've reached a point where most fast-growth districts reach quickly," Dupre said. "The crux of the issue is we are adding kids rapidly, and our tax value is not going up fast enough to support that."
According to Dupre, PISD expects enrollment to increase by 2,300 in the next five years. Total enrollment in the district has nearly doubled during the past 14 years and now stands at 22,962 students.
Tax increase schedule
A public meeting to discuss the proposed tax increase is scheduled for Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the PISD administration building board room. Following the public discussion, the board will vote on the proposed increase.
"Although no board member ever wants to increase taxes, at the end of the day this move saves taxpayers millions of dollars and puts PISD in a position to respond to the growth we expect in the next few years," said Elva Gladney, board of trustees president, in a statement released by the district.
The tax increase is the first step in clearing PISD debt in anticipation of a 2013 bond election. PISD is currently carrying 11 bond debts valued at more than $340 million. The district estimates the 6 cent tax increase will wipe out an additional $7.1 million in outstanding debt and interest during the next 20 years.
"Could we finance the next year without going to 50 cents? The answer is yes," said Kenneth Adix, PISD chief financial officer. "The issue we have as a district is [that] in May, we know we are going to be borrowing more money."
Funds from next year's anticipated bond will go toward building three new schools, technology costs and repairs on existing buildings. The district is in the early stages of putting together a board committee to study how much will need to be borrowed.
"You're well over $100 million in what the total amount is going to be," Adix said.
Effect on residents and homeowners
According to Nason Hengst, a Pflugerville real estate broker, small increases in property taxes are easily offset by the property value increase brought on by improved school districts.
"I don't think $7 a month is going to cause a lot of pain," Hengst said. "Long term, I think it will help more than it will hurt."
Pflugerville Councilman Brad Marshall says the city still maintains a balance of quality schools and low taxes.
"The voters will ultimately decide if [the tax increase is] good for the city," Marshall said. "However, it is good for the city to have Exemplary-rated schools, which is one of many reasons why people move to Pflugerville.
"When there are proposed increases to the overall tax rate, we continue to evaluate our impact on the taxpayer to keep the city's portion affordable and low."
Other districts also seek funding
Other neighboring school districts have passed or will soon consider tax increases, albeit for different reasons than PISD.
The Round Rock ISD board of trustees voted June 21 to increase property taxes in the district by 4.5 cents to cover a $1.8 million budget shortfall and fund teacher salary increases. RRISD estimates the increase will net the district an additional $9 million and cost the average homeowner $4 per month.
On July 12 the Hutto ISD board of trustees will consider calling an election for a 13 cent tax increase for this fall intended to restore teacher and program cuts. A vote in Hutto last year on a 6 cent increase failed.
"The public came back and said they didn't understand the ramifications of the cuts," said Emily Grobe, HISD public information officer. "The surveys we have taken indicate that the support is now there.
"This 13 cents isn't about next year; it's about planning for the future through the next four or five [years]."