Five-cent school tax hike forecast

RISD hit with 28% drop in tax values; enrollment down; 13 jobs being cut

Rockdale ISD continues to deal with a “perfect storm” of declining taxable values, enrollment and state funding with a 5-cent tax increase forecast for 2012-13.

Supt. Dr. Howell Wright said trustees continue to hold workshops on the budget, plan to adopt a spending plan by June 30 and set a tax rate in August or September.

“It looks like the maintenance and operation (M&O) side of the tax rate will stay the same but the interest and sinking (INS), debt service, will need to go up about a nickel,” he said.

That’s because taxable values in the Rockdale ISD are projected to fall $364 million during the year (28 percent), according to preliminary figures released last month by the Milam County Appraisal District.

EXEMPTION—Key factor in that change was an exemption on Luminant pollution control equipment, granted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Payoff of the 2007 bond issue, okayed by RISD voters, is linked to taxable values. Dr. Wright said the bond issue—which resulted in the new intermediate campus and the renovation/expansion of the high school—allows the school board to raise taxes on the INS rate if valuations fall. That’s unlike the M&O rate which would require voter approval for a tax hike.

REVENUE—Dr. Wright said the loss in tax revenues will trigger some “recapture” assistance from the state. “But it’s not a dollar-for-dollar situation,” he said. “The extra funding won’t make up for what we’re losing.”

State funding has been a touchy issue for many school districts, RISD included.

A factor that could help would be increased enrollment since state funding is tied to weighted average daily attendance. But RISD’s enrollment trend is downward.

“We don’t have any choice but to assume our enrollment will continue to decrease in 2012-13, and probably for years to come unless a lot of factors change,” he said.

MORE CUTS—Last year the RISD began classes with 1,571 students, down 89 from the 1,660 who answered the first bell a year earlier.

Five years ago, in August 2007, the final year before Alcoa shut down RISD began classes with 1,737 students.

Ten years ago, 1,855 students began the 2002-03 school year in the Rockdale ISD.

“It’s definitely a long-term trend,” Dr. Wright said.

With all the factors, the net result will be 13 more positions eliminated for 2012-13, he said. “That’s everything, administration, teaching positions, staff, all employees,” he said. “Some of that, of course, is due to declining enrollment,” he added.

The RISD has been aggressively cutting positions by attrition—not re-staffing positions when employees leave—and has offered early decision incentives to staffers, allowing it to plan for departures well in advance.

RISD’s downward enrollment:

• Last year’s first-day: 1,571
• One year previously: 1,660
• Five years previously: 1,737
• Ten years previously: 1,855

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2012-06-07 digital edition

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