Midlanders head to the polls September 21st through October 4th to cast their ‘early’ vote for or against an MISD-led property tax increase; the Special Election Day is October 8th.
Under state law a school district must gain voter approval (in the form of a Tax Ratification Election) if a district proposes a property tax rate above $1.04 per $100 of property valuation. Midland ISD has proposed a rate of $1.09 per $100 valuation (a $.05 increase), which has triggered the need for an election.
Why was a tax rate increase proposed?
MISD officials claim that the district faces an approximate $25 million deficit this school year due to a decline in mineral valuations (which in turn effects revenue collections) accompanied by an estimated $53.8 million recapture payment (often referred to as Robin Hood) due to the State of Texas. $53.8 million is roughly $4 million more than MISD’s payment in 2015-2016.
*The reason Midland’s Robin Hood bill increased while revenue collections decreased is due to a one year lag within the recapture program. When determining how much of a district’s tax collections are due to the state, the prior year’s tax collection numbers are used. In other words, the decline in revenue expected for 2016-2017 will not be reflected in a lower Robin Hood payment until 2017-2018.
The Budget Plan
Upon learning about MISD’s expected deficit, Clarence Scharbauer III and the Scharbauer Foundation donated $10 million to the district. In addition to the donation, MISD plans to make approximately $6 million in budget cuts this school year. Officials state that if the tax increase passes, the district is estimated to net an additional $6 million in revenue. If the tax increase fails, officials have proposed roughly $6.4 million in cuts to the following:
Monetary Incentives for Support Staff- $900,000
Employee Benefits (employees would instead contribute $100/month)- $3,000,000
Elementary and Secondary Administrative, Teacher, or Support Personnel- $740,000
Suspend Some Academic Coaching Positions (these current employees would be transferred to other positions, likely primary teaching positions)- $1,170,000
Supplies and Travel- $600,000
A Public Debate
There have been numerous arguments for and against the tax increase. It’s important to analyze the facts and GET OUT AND VOTE. For information about polling locations, times, and dates, visit the Midland County Elections website by clicking here.
Arguments against the tax increase include the following:
- MISD leadership is in the midst of a transition phase
- MISD is currently without a permanent Superintendent and the school board will have three, possibly four, new trustees in place following the November general election.
- Midland is in an economic downturn due to commodity prices; an increase in taxes will only place a heavier financial burden on the community.
- The cuts MISD claim will result from a failed tax increase election are said to be misleading and weak by some. For example, MISD states that they will suspend roughly 18 academic coaching positions if the TRE fails. These employees will simply be transferred to a different position (likely a primary teacher role). Therefore, while their position may be cut, the actual employee is not. This is a “tightening of the belt” tactic often used by the private sector.
- There are alternative options to a tax rate increase, namely withdrawing from the Fund Balance.
- The district currently has approximately $40 million in its “rainy day fund”.
- MISD’s performance levels fall far behind other districts in Texas, despite comparable spending levels. This has resulted in distrust towards the district among many residents. In addition, it is currently unknown whether this tax increase will serve as a positive or negative component of needed reform, or whether reform is in MISD’s future (hence the leadership transition).
Arguments for the tax increase as well as additional details can be viewed on Midland ISD’s website by clicking here, as well as the Facebook page of Midland First- a MISD advocacy organization (Midland First played a major role in advocating for the 2012 Bond Election and now the TRE). You can view Midland First’s Facebook page here.