WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)—If you live within the Wichita Falls Independent School District your taxes will be going down.
The board voted to adopt a new rate of $1.15, which is $0.07 lower than last year.
Monday’s decision comes after several weeks of delays due to a clause in House Bill 3 preventing a swap and drop, that was already approved by voters in June’s Tax Ratification Election.
More than three months ago, Wichita Falls voters approved an increase to the district’s Maintenance and Operations tax rate that would drop the Debt Service tax rate to zero and in turn reduce property taxes by $0.05.
By doing this the state would pay 60% of the district’s current debt and WFISD would get an additional $1.4 million from the state.
“That $1.4 million were funds that we were hoping to use toward facilities improvements throughout the district and continuing maintenance of our aging facilities and so we won’t have that money but we do have plans to carry on with our planning process for our facilities,” WFISD School Board President Elizabeth Yeager said.
That is because according to the Texas Education Agency, a clause in House Bill 3 states that a school district may not increase the M&O tax rate in order to create a surplus for the purpose of paying the district’s debt service.
This could have been avoided however if WFISD’s TRE was mentioned in the strategic plan before January 1 this year.
“Although we had been discussing a TRE for some time almost a year or longer than a year before that, that was not considered action taken,” Yeager said.
After seeking the advice of its attorneys and school finance experts, the school board voted Monday to keep the Interest and Sinking tax rate at $0.18 and the M&O tax rate has been compressed to $0.97 making the total tax rate $1.15 cents.
“We were a $1.22 so we are $0.07 lower than we were a year ago and actually prior to House Bill 3 we’d hope to be $0.05 lower with the TRE so this is a positive for the taxpayers
And though there will not be an additional $1.4 million as officials anticipated, Yeager says school leaders will continue to address facilities maintenance issues and upgrades with the budget at hand.
Despite these minor setbacks, there are still plans for a 2020 bond election.