Burleson school district voters reject tax increase

BURLESON -- Voters have turned down a tax increase for the Burleson school district, a move that could trigger potential layoffs and cuts in athletics, fine arts and elementary elective programs.

After a review of 32 provisional ballots Tuesday night, the tally indicates 1,523 votes against the measure and 1,515 votes for it. Only two of the provisional ballots were eligible, not enough to change the vote count from Saturday.

"Naturally we are disappointed in the outcome, especially for our students and staff members," wrote Superintendent Richard Crummel on the district website. "These are tough economic times and we respect the challenges our community members face. Our task now is to carefully consider how this outcome will affect our quality programs."

District officials are beginning to evaluate programs. Among areas that could face cuts are elementary electives, including art, music and Spanish. Athletics and fine arts programs in grades seven through 12 could also see cuts, according to the district.

Another possibility is the board declaring financial exigency -- an emergency mechanism that would opens the door to potential layoffs.

"That's a big 'if,'" district spokesman Philip Beckman said. "The board hasn't even met yet."

The election results are unofficial until the school board canvasses them Oct. 25.

Voters were asked to ratify an increase in the maintenance and operations tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17 per $100 of assessed property value.

When added to the 50-cent rate for a bond package that pays for six new schools, the total tax rate would be $1.67. That would mean an increased payment of $141 a year for the average homeowner.

An eight-member board reviewed provisional ballots from Saturday's tax ratification election, Beckman said.

He explained that provisional voting is available to people whose names do not appear on the list of registered voters, who do not present a valid voter registration certificate or who do not present any form of identification at the polls.

Provisional votes are qualified and counted after election day.

Unofficial results released Saturday showed 1,514 votes in favor and 1,522 votes against.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675