Texas Education Agency could nullify WFISD Tax Ratification Election

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WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)—1.4 million dollars in additional revenue the Wichita Falls ISD hoped to get following a voter-approved tax rate change in June, could be no more.

The tax ratification, also known as the “Tax Rate Swap and Drop” allowed the school board to increase the maintenance and operation tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17 and be in a position to drop the current debt service tax rate of $0.18 to $0.00. Something school board members said would lower the overall tax rate by a nickel.

WFISD officials believed a tax change could also give the school district an extra 1.4 million dollars per year from the state.

School leaders said that money would be used for much-needed repairs.

However, the passage of House Bill 3 before the local election closed that tax swap loophole according to the Texas Education Agency which will potentially nullify the WFISD’s TRE.

Wichita Falls State Rep. James Frank said he is disappointed local taxpayers and the WFISD will not be allowed to take advantage of the same taxing mechanisms that numerous other districts previously did before HB3.

Rep. Frank released this statement to KFDX:

With the passage of HB 3 during the most recent legislative session, the state significantly streamlined the complexity of the school finance structure. However, that legislation also closed a tax swap loophole that has been available for years. I am disappointed that local taxpayers and the WFISD will not be allowed to take advantage of the same taxing mechanisms that numerous other districts around the state have enjoyed and the increased state funding that comes with it.

While the way Texas funds schools is better and more streamlined after HB 3 than before, this is another example of the real-world effects an overly complex school finance system has on our students, teachers, and taxpayers. I will keep working with local administrators to determine if there’s a way forward to accomplish the two positive goals of the “swap and drop” proposal—lowering local property taxes AND bringing additional revenue to the district.

Superintendent Michael Kuhrt said the school district is seeking the advice of its attorneys and school finance experts about the direction the district should pursue.

A clause in the bill has the TEA telling Texas school districts they had to have a TRE mentioned in the strategic plan before January 1, 2019.

Kuhrt said the board did not know of the specifics of HB3 by that deadline.

“If they don’t allow our TRE because we didn’t pass it soon enough, or we didn’t have language in our strategic plan six months ago before the election, before House Bill 3 was even proposed so there was no way we could’ve known we had to have that in our strategic plan,” Kuhrt said.

Because of HB3 compression, taxpayers will still see a $0.07 reduction in taxes even if the TRE is nullified.

Click here to view how the rates vary based on HB3 and the TRE.

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