As expected La Marque school district trustees approved a tax rate increase for the district after a public meeting where a majority of residents spoke in favor of the increase.
Board president Annie Burton and Trustees Joe Cantu Shirley Fanuiel and Edna Courville all voted for setting the district’s combined tax at $1.35 per $100 of assessed value 11 cents higher than the district’s current rate. Only Trustee Davey Jones abstained from voting and trustees Nakisha Paul and Edward Crawford were absent.
Jones who voted against a tax increase in July said he wanted no part of Tuesday night’s vote.
Asked why he didn’t vote against the tax increase this time instead of abstaining Jones said “I don’t know.”
The district is attempting to close a hole of about $2.9 million in the 2012-13 budget. Trustees decided to ask voters to approve a tax increase and are counting on an increase in student enrollment by 160 to 200 students to close that funding gap.
Trustees approved increasing the maintenance and operations side of the tax rate by 13 cents per $100 of assessed value while also lowering the debt side of the tax rate by 2 cents.
Residents in the La Marque school districts will have the final say on whether their taxes go up Dec. 15. Early voting runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 11 and all voting will be done at La Marque City Hall Community Room 1111 Bayou Road school district officials said.
On Tuesday night 10 residents told the board how they felt about the idea and only two were against it.
One of those who spoke against the tax raise Lisa Finn told the trustees she already had to pay for private school for her son and she did not want her taxes to go up for a school district she did not send her children to.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow to pay all that money for private school and toward taxes” said Finn who has lived in the district for five years.
Charlene Hall told the trustees that her problem with the proposed tax increase was that she like other senior citizens could not afford an increase in taxes.
“We need to think about the taxpayers” she said.
School district officials said residents 65 years or older who have their taxes frozen would not see their taxes increase if voters approved the new tax rate.
Hall who said she used to have children in the school district said the trustees should look to consolidating underutilized schools.
But supporters of increasing the tax rate spoke passionately of the need to support the school district and some argued that a large part of the district’s budget woes were due to state budget cuts.
Christin Lee is a 2009 graduate of La Marque High School who went on to get a psychology degree for the University of North Texas. She came back home to help in the community.
“I want to see La Marque build to the standards of all the other school districts around this community” she said.
That would take increasing taxes a little to provide the school district with the funds it needs Lee said.
“We don’t want people whose home is here have to go somewhere else to go to school to get a decent education” she said.
Some who spoke pointed out how the La Marque school district’s current tax rate of $1.24 per $100 of assessed value is the second lowest in the county. If voters approve increasing that rate to $1.35 per $100 of assessed value La Marque would have the third lowest out nine school districts in the county.
Others who spoke mentioned the past when the district attracted students because of its good academic reputation and their desire to see La Marque school district return to that.
“I would like to see La Marque thrive again so I am on board for the tax increase” said Nancy Webb a retired teacher who was with the district for 46 years.
The school district has laid off workers renegotiated its property insurance put in place a 10 percent cut to discretionary spending cut $63000 from the athletic department budget and instituted across-the-board budget cuts in an effort to save money school district officials said.
Overall the district’s staff has been reduced by 42 positions since 2007 according to the school district’s figures. According to state records the district has 895 fewer students than it did in the 2006 school year.
But a large part of the problem has been a reduction in state funding said Laurie Alexander the school district’s finance director. La Marque school district has received $2.9 million less in funding from the state as a result of budget cuts at the state level she said.
“This problem is not just a local problem” said Geraldine Sam former mayor of La Marque and a teacher with the district. “It is a statewide problem.”
Jim Malm who graduated from La Marque in 1967 said tea party members and Republicans elected to state legislature went with a platform of cutting the budget.
“Educating our children is the most important thing and they cut that to the bone” he said. “I think they took some bones out.”
Board president Burton suggested that those who are against the tax increase should perhaps contact the Governor and their state and congressional representatives.
“If you don’t want to vote (for the tax ratification election) please write a letter” Burton said.