Dear Texas City ISD Community,
Tuesday evening, August 25, 2015, the Texas City ISD Board of Trustees approved a tax rate increase to balance the 2015-2016 school district budget. During the past five years, TCISD revenue has declined from approximately $56 million to slightly less than $52 million while student enrollment has increased from 5,922 to 6,347.
During the past several years, TCISD has been able to set aside funds designated for capital improvements. Land purchase and construction costs for our new Industrial Trades Center (ITC) will total approximately $10 million. Through sound fiscal practices, the District has been able to move forward with the construction plans for this new facility without asking voters for a tax increase for funding. The planning process for this facility began more than 6 years ago. Changes in the State high school graduation plan have now made it possible for our high school students to take advantage of these trades courses. We are charged with the responsibility for meeting the academic needs of all of our students, and this new facility is one more key component of what we offer as a very well-rounded education for students in TCISD.
After construction of the ITC, the District fund balance will be approximately $22 million. This will allow for three month’s operating expenses plus funds for catastrophic events. For this reason, dipping into fund balance to pay operations expenses would not be in accordance with established best practices.
This left the school district two choices for addressing the budget deficit. One choice was to cut staff and services to our students. Our most recent progress indicates that our staffing levels and educational programs are highly successful in meeting the needs of our students. Through the hard work and dedication of our students, teachers, administrators and support staff, all of our campuses met or exceeded the State Standard on all four indexes of the State Accountability System this past spring. Given the recent advancements of our students, we considered the negative impact that reductions in staff and student services could have on academic performance. Trustees determined that these cuts would be unwise at the present time, so the second choice they went with was to increase the tax rate to balance the budget.
In the 2014-2015 school year, the total TCISD tax rate was $1.2616 while the tax rate in Galveston County schools ranged from $1.16 in Galveston to $1.54 in Hitchcock and Dickinson. Based on the needs of the school district, the school district administration is recommending total tax rate of $1.4298 for the 2015-2016 school year.
Given the new $10,000 homestead exemption that goes into effect in 2015-2016, even at the total rate of $1.4298, many homeowners will actually see a decrease in their TCISD tax bill. Those at age 65 and older, or disabled, would see a $120.98 decrease at the current total tax rate. With the new proposed rate of $1.4298, these citizens would see an even greater decrease of $142.98. At the new proposed tax rate, a homeowner under age 65 with the average home value of $94,192 would see a decrease in their tax bill of $41.47.
While a tax rate increase is never desirable, it is our hope that our negative budget situation is a temporary one. We have reason to believe that the State funding system will be redesigned in the next two years and the anticipated changes should be beneficial for TCISD. Trustees are committed to lowering the tax rate as soon as State funding formulas make this possible. Public comment regarding the tax rate was heard by Trustees on August 26, 2015. Public leaders were overwhelmingly supportive that the students' best interest was to be put first. They supported the tax rate increase to benefit students. As Superintendent of Schools, I welcome conversations with citizens about this issue. If interested, you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 409-916-0101 to set up an appointment for a personal meeting. I thank everyone in the Texas City ISD community for all they do to help create and maintain a strong school district to meet the educational needs of the students of Texas City ISD.
Dr. Cynthia Lusignolo, Superintendent of Schools