Voters should support the Galveston Independent School District proposal to raise the tax rate for routine maintenance and operations.
The request, which will be on the ballot Aug. 26, boils down to a matter of trust. The district has earned it.
But, first, some good news.
While the segment of the tax rate that supports maintenance and operations will increase 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value, the overall tax rate will drop a penny. That’s a savings of $10 per $100,000 of assessed value.
How’s that possible?
The segment of the tax rate that supports bond debt is dropping 3 cents per $100 of assessed value.
That’s possible because the district refinanced debt remaining from old bond issues. It made that move when interest rates dropped, saving about $8 million.
That’s one of the reasons for the trust.
Another is the district has made some tough decisions and cut the number of its employees.
That’s allowed it to build its reserves. The district had about $14 million before Hurricane Ike struck in 2008. It has about $30 million now.
The district has been prudent, even after enrollment dropped sharply after Hurricane Ike.
In 2008-09, the district had 7,700 students and 1,124 employees. Today, it has an enrollment of 6,800. But as the district shrank, district officials cut the number of employees to 931.
State funding is tied to enrollment. Some districts that lose enrollment get into financial trouble when they fail to cut spending accordingly. Galveston’s school officials did not fall into that trap.
Note that the 2 cents on this rate get special treatment under the state’s rules for school finance. The Galveston school district has always had the ability to increase the tax rate for maintenance and operations by 2 cents without having to send that revenue to the state under the Robin Hood plan.
As the school district’s tax base rebounded after Ike, it’s shipping more and more money off to the state.
In fiscal 2010-11, the district sent $4.73 million to the state, 8.6 percent of its tax levy. In 2014-15, that amount increased to $13.28 million, 24.8 percent of its levy.
The good news is that the 2-cent increase in the tax rate would generate $1.1 million — all of which would stay in the Galveston district.
What would the money be used for?
It’s time. The district has made something of a turnaround. It’s gotten its finances in order. Discipline at its campuses has improved. It’s making a discernible effort to improve its instruction and raise test scores.
The district has kept the faith with its taxpayers. Voters should say yes to this proposal and allow the district to sink money back into getting and keeping the best people it can find.
• Heber Taylor
Salaries for beginning teachers
If voters approve the increase of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, the salary for a beginning teacher would increase from $44,700 to $46,100.
High Island: $31,165
La Marque: $42,975
Santa Fe: $45,478
Texas City: $48,000
Clear Creek: $48,500
Source: Galveston Independent School District