Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

September 16, 2013

Schools firm up budgets

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — School budgets are almost complete for Navarro County, and some schools have granted raises, at least to support staff, and step raises for teachers. Most districts in the county also stuck with the same tax rate, hesitant to raise rates at the same time that property appraisals are off. In the case of Corsicana, the district actually dropped its tax rate slightly.

Below is a round-up of the budgets of Navarro County school districts in alphabetical order.

• Blooming Grove’s budget for 2013-2014 is about $6.7 million. It was approved in late August. The tax rate will remain the same, at $1.04 for maintenance and operations, and 9 cents for interest and sinking, for a total of $1.13 for each $100 in appraised value. The tax rate is expected to be officially adopted Tuesday at the board meeting.

• With about 10 times the number of kids as most school districts in Navarro County, it’s little wonder that Corsicana ISD’s budget is also much, much larger. At the end of August, the school board approved $50.4 million in expenditures for the current school year.

Corsicana also dropped it tax rate for the coming year, a total of $1.2803 for each $100 in appraised value, a drop of just over one-quarter cent from last year’s rate. The district’s debt service tax rate came in lower this year, due to money saved by the district in re-funding two bond issues earlier this year.

• Dawson ISD’s expenses this school year will be about $4.6 million. The district did a bond project a few years ago, so the debt rate is .25 cents. The district’s financial advisors recommended raising it to .253, but the board voted to use a little fund balance to keep the rate the same. The district’s maintenance and operations tax rate is the state standard of $1.04, for a total tax rate of $1.29 for each $100 in appraised property value. It was approved in late August.

• Frost ISD passed a budget of $4.1 million in expenditures on Aug. 26. Frost’s voters approved a higher maintenance and operations tax rate several years ago, so Frost’s maintenance and operations rate is $1.17, while the debt or interest and sinking rate is $8.5 cents, for a total of 1.255 for each $100 in appraised property value.

• Kerens ISD has a budget of about $5.9 million this year, according to Superintendent Kevin Stanford. The district gave 5 percent raises to the support staff, administrators got a 3 percent raise. Teachers got usual step raises according to the state schedule, but the district also added a couple of steps for veteran teachers, so teachers with more than 20 years aren’t left plateaued indefinitely. The budget and tax rate were approved back in June. Kerens’ fiscal year is different from most school districts in that it begins July 1.

The district is keeping its same tax rate of 1.04 maintenance and operations rate, and 7 cents debt rate this year. However, the district is also asking Kerens voters to grant them a bond package. The $11 million package will mean a 42-cent rate increase on the interest and sinking side for the 2014-15 budget year, if it passes.

• Mildred ISD passed a budget that was just slightly above $8 million, or 4 percent from last year. Teachers didn’t get a raise, but support staff did get a 4 percent raise. Those salaries had been frozen for the last two years, explained Superintendent Becky Burns.

The tax rate went up about three quarters of a penny per $100. The tax rate last year was $1.29, and this year is $1.2980. Of that, $1.04 is the maintenance and operations rate. To keep the rate low, the district did use some of its fund balance and cash available. It did not cash in any CDs.

• Rice ISD will have about $6.5 million in expenditures this coming year, an increase of about 2.5 percent over last year, according to Assistant Superintendent for Finance Larry Baer.

“I think we’re in good shape this year,” he said. “Of course, our finances are a little better this year because of the cuts we had back in 2011, as well as increasing our enrollment does help in Chapter 42 school districts.”

Chapter 42 simply means the district receives aid from the state, as opposed to Chapter 41 schools, which have to surrender some of their local property tax income to other districts as part of the state’s school finance system.

Rice’s approved tax rate is $1.42 total, of which $1.04 is for maintenance and operations, while .38 cents is for debt repayment.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com