In Parker County, 3 school districts have tax-rate elections Saturday

When voters in the Aledo school district overwhelmingly approved changes in school taxes Aug. 28, they boosted the money available to operate their schools.

Now, the Weatherford, Brock and Millsap school districts are hoping for the same result from their voters.

On Saturday, Parker County voters in the three districts go to the polls to decide whether to ratify increases in the money each district receives on the maintenance and operations side of its ad valorem tax rate.

In Weatherford's case, the net effect will be the same as in Aledo: The overall tax rate will be flat if the measure passes. That's because while the M&O rate will increase, the district will decrease the "interest and sinking" side of the tax rate, used to pay down debt like bonds and loans.

The district is proposing increasing the M&O rate by 13 cents, to $1.17 per $100 of assessed property value, and decrease the I&S fund side of the tax rate by the same amount, to 23 cents from the present 36 cents.

The total rate will remain at $1.40.

But the move will allow Weatherford to bolster the funds it receives from the state by about $4 million per year and help offset rising costs.

"We're getting about the same money now [from the state] as we did in 2006," Weatherford Superintendent Deborah Cron said. "In that time, the cost of living has increased 15.5 percent but our funds haven't."

Brock's request is more modest. The district is asking voters to increase its M&O rate by 4 cents, to $1.08, while reducing its I&S rate by 6 cents, to 29 cents.

The overall rate would drop by 2 cents, from $1.39 per $100 of valuation to $1.37.

Superintendent Richard Tedder said the approximate 21 percent increase in Brock property values allows the district to meet its financial obligations even with lowering the overall rate.

"We're trying to build the trust back with the community and let them know we're being upfront about everything," he said.

Millsap is the lone school district that is asking for an increase in its M&O tax rate without dropping its I&S rate.

If the tax rate is ratified, the new overall ad valorem rate will be $1.66 per $100 of valuation, up 13 cents.

The district would receive approximately $517,000 more a year with the change.

In an open letter to voters, Superintendent Jerry Lee Hunkapiller said that the district has had to take several steps to reduce costs for the 2010-11 school year and that without the additional funds from the tax election, more reductions are likely.

He wrote that the district has cut 12 staff positions, cut funding for high school powerlifting, middle school cross country and middle school tennis, and cut department and campus budgets by 20 percent. "Without the additional tax increase, MISD must continue to cut eight or more additional positions and [more] extracurricular programs," the letter said.

Voting takes place Saturday at the Parker County Courthouse Annex, 112 Santa Fe Drive, Weatherford; Millsap school Administration Building, 305 Pine St., Millsap; and Brock Baptist Church, 2111 Farm Road 1189, Brock.

Early voting in the districts ended Tuesday.

Until 2006, school boards could decide how the overall tax was divided without voter approval.

But when House Bill 1 was passed, the Texas Legislature essentially capped the M&O side of the tax rate at $1.04. If districts needed more, they could ask voters to ratify a higher rate not to exceed $1.17, the Legislature decided.

Such elections must be held between 30 and 90 days after a school board adopts a tax rate. If voters don't ratify the rate, then the school district can't use any rate higher than the rollback tax rate.

If the higher M&O tax rate is approved, state funding also increases. That's because the state pays more to districts that increase their maintenance tax rate.

Melissa Winn,

817-594-9902, ext. 104