As if the effects of a $30 million budget deficit weren’t enough, an 11-cent property tax hike is on the cards for home owners in Spring Independent School District, due to an overall decrease in area property values.
The news was handed down June 30, when trustees adopted a budget that does away with more than 700 positions, provides no pay raises for district employees for the second year in a row, cuts department and campus funding by at least 10 percent, includes cuts to bus transportation and is down $18 million in state funding. The district was already in a more than $11 million hole going into the budget cycle.
Boardmember Mel Smith said he had no choice but to adopt the budget, but he did not approve of it.
“I believe our children will be affected by these cuts,” Smith said, aiming his displeasure at lawmakers.
Superintendent Ralph Draper doesn’t doubt the district’s approximately 36,000 students will be affected.
“More students will be walking to school. Classes will be larger,” Draper said. “Our employees will have to do more with less.”
The $318.4 million 2011-12 budget is expected to require a tax rate of $1.57 cents per $100 valuation, up from $1.46 this year. Broken down, the tax rate to cover maintenance and operations will remain at last year’s rate of $1.04, while the rate to cover the debt service will go up 11 cents to 53 cents per $100 valuation.
District officials said a 14 percent drop in property values over the last three years necessitates the raise in property taxes. The district is also planning to refund current callable bonds.
“Without this refunding, the property tax rate would have to be even higher,” said Christine Porter, associate superintendent for financial services.
The tax rate is expected to come up for a vote in September after the certified tax rolls come in from Harris County Appraisal District.
The impact of the budget will be felt immediately by many students when they start school Aug. 24. Transportation will not be provided for students living within two miles of their school, a limit set by the state, unless there is hazardous traffic or a student is receiving special services requiring transportation, reaping $1.5 million in savings.
During the meeting, Carlos Candanedo, the only person to speak at the public hearing about the budget, expressed concern about the transportation cuts. Candanedo, who has a child a Winship Elementary who may lose transportation, said he understood the district’s budget dilemmas but worried about his child walking in the heat along a road with no sidewalks and the affect on his property values.
“Dangers will exist. Hopefully there are no pedophiles out there,” Candanedo said.
The reduction of 700 positions includes the 283 people, almost all of them teachers on contract, who were laid off in the spring. District officials couldn’t say how many more people will lose their jobs, but the cuts affect administration and support staff, although no top administrators will lose their job.
“We still have to have people heading up departments,” Draper said.
Details about changes in transportation can be found at www.springisd.org.