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?

Raises.

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

Hitchcock: $41,724

La Marque: $42,975

Galveston: $44,700

Santa Fe: $45,478

Friendswood: $47,000

Dickinson: $47,400

Texas City: $48,000

Clear Creek: $48,500

Pasadena: $48,848

Pearland: $50,000

Source: Galveston Independent School District

(9) comments

Matt Coulson

If maintenance and operations covers teachers salaries, what other category of expenses are there? Could we have taken this 2cents out of the 13million we already sent to the state? I am supportive of the improvements at GISD but trust would be too strong a word.

GISD Communications

Matt, in a word, no. Under the Texas education finance system, we have to pay the state a certain amount of money because we are over the allowed amount of property taxes we can collect. We are considered a "property rich" district and there is no way around that, despite the fact we have a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. We have to give money back to be redistributed to the "property poor" districts, many that have much less economically disadvantaged numbers.

This is actually being contested in state courts right now as being unconstitutional, but we don't know how long it's going to take to change a broken system.

We have two types of budget. Interest and Sinking is used to pay off bond issuances (which goes towards major purchases such as building schools, buying new technology, buses and facilities). Maintenance and Operations is just that: teacher salaries, keeping buildings maintained, paying for regularly used equipment, keeping students fed, transported, etc. That's basically the budget we use to open the doors every day.

The two-cents aka "golden pennies" rule is given to all school districts almost as a freebie - two cents that can be collected in which the state can't take any of it back to be redistributed back to the "property poor" districts. But voters have to approve it.

Heber detailed it quite accurately. By refinancing our bonds and saving taxpayers millions due to smaller interest rates, we are able drop the Interest & Sinking budget costs (bond issuances) three cents. If voters allow us to obtain the two golden pennies, it will raise M&O two cents, but because we dropped I&S three cents, you therefore you will actually pay less taxes.

So it comes down to this: a "yes" vote means you pay less taxes and we can give teachers raises. A "no" vote means no teacher raises and you continue to pay the current, and potentially higher tax rate.

Let me know if you have any further questions. We'll be hosting some public forums in the next six weeks for those who have further questions.
-GISD Communications

Matt Coulson

Thanks, keep up the good work, reading writing and arithmetic.

Brad Gulick

No tax increases. If the school taxes go up - I will cancel my subsrciption to the GCDN.
Be careful of what you ask for Heber.

GISD Communications

Oldsaltydog - there is no way school taxes will increase regardless of the outcome of this election. They will never go above what you are currently paying, which happens to be the lowest tax rate in the region by a fair margin.

I am quoting the Superintendent when I say this.
-GISD Communications

GISD Communications

Correction: Unlike previously stated, tax rates are going down regardless of the outcome of this election. The I&S budget is being reduced three cents. What GISD is asking voters for is a two cent increase in its M&O budget so the district can give teachers raises, which would result in an overall one-cent decrease in the school district tax rate. State law dictates we must get voter approval for this type of tax increase.

Yes vote = GISD will have the ability to give a teacher pay increase to be more competitive with county districts; taxpayers pay one less cent on tax rate

No vote = no teacher raises, taxpayers pay three less cents on tax rate.

Sorry for the confusion. Thank you to reporter John Ferguson for the phone call to clear that up! That one is on me.
-GISD Communications

George Croix

Do you anticipate that, considering property valuation increases, the anticipated new, lower, school tax RATE will actually produce more s chool tax REVENUE, or be neutral?

GISD Communications

Gecroix, the way the finance department budgeted it, the new lower tax rate will keep tax revenue neutral.

George Croix

Thank you for the clarification.
That's good news for taxpayers, if only slightly less so than if their school tax liability were actually going to be lower.

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