I wanted to share the Superintendent, Keith McBurnett’s, letter to the school district concerning the increase in property taxes in our area this next year.
“As a reminder, I write an article for the local papers and the BCISD web site every couple of weeks during the school year. The articles can be found under the District tab at www.burnetcisd.net. Because of the importance of school funding, I want to share my most recent article with you directly. As always, thank you for your support of Burnet CISD!
The District has been working on developing its budget since January and conducted its first budget workshop in March. The next budget workshop is scheduled for June 4. A key data point in developing the District’s budget is property values. Burnet County property value estimates were provided to the District by the Burnet Central Appraisal District on April 25. The District had been working under the conservative assumption of a 5% property value increase for the upcoming school year, but the actual estimate came in higher at 9%.
I want to make clear that Burnet CISD does not determine property values, but it is important to understand that State law requires the Burnet Central Appraisal District to appraise properties at least at 95% percent of market value or else the appraisal district fails the Comptroller ‘s ratio study and the State reduces funding to local schools. The State Comptroller’s ratio study compares sales prices with appraised values set by the county appraisal district. Burnet County was determined to be under the 95% threshold in 2017, and is in a grace period. If Burnet County does not pass the comptroller’s ratio study in the future, Burnet CISD and Marble Falls ISD could both lose millions of dollars in state funding.
The District does set two tax rates each year- Maintenance and Operation (M&O) for day to day operation of the District (salaries, utilities, transportation, etc.) and Interest & Sinking (I&S) to pay off the District’s debt related to bond programs. The District’s M&O rate is currently $1.04 and is as low as it can be without being penalized by the State. The I&S rate was lowered by a penny in August 2016 and another 3 cents in August 2017 and is currently $0.24. Because of rising property values, the Board of Trustees is projecting to lower the I&S tax rate again in August 2018 and recently approved the early payment of bonds totaling $2,550,000. This early payment of bonds, called Bond Defeasance, is a strategy used to decrease the interest expense paid on the district’s bonds. This specific defeasance saves Burnet CISD over $200,000 in interest payments.
The Board of Trustees is committed to having the lowest possible tax rate while maintaining a commitment to planning for the future, offering the highest quality educational programs and being fiscally responsible while servicing its debt. Approval of the final tax rates will be made when the budget is adopted this August.
The increased property value also means that the property wealth per student in Burnet CISD is projected to reach a threshold defined in law which will result in Burnet CISD being subject to “recapture.” For the first time in the District’s history, Burnet CISD will be sending property taxes generated in Burnet CISD to the State as part of the “Robin Hood” school finance plan. The District is projecting that this recapture payment will be $350,000 for the 2018-2019 school year. These are funds that will not be available to support innovative programs, teacher pay raises or school safety initiatives in Burnet CISD, but will instead be redistributed to other Texas school districts. While some school districts in the State have fallen off the “funding cliff” when they become a “recapture district” the Board of Trustees and administration have been carefully planning for the future, by setting money aside to assist with the projected loss in funding.
The one entity that is benefiting the most from increased property values is the State of Texas. As local property tax collections go up, the amount of state aid to fund education is reduced. This means that the State is contributing a smaller share of funding for Burnet CISD than it has in the past.
Because the State adopts its budget for a biennium, Burnet CISD always plans a two year budget framework so that we are looking ahead for any possible budget challenges like recapture. We take very seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and to plan appropriately.”