McKinney’s residents could soon face a larger property tax bill. On Wednesday evening, the McKinney School Board voted to raise McKinney’s property taxes from $1.54 per $100 of assessed home value to $1.67 per $100 of assessed home value. This 13-cent increase would raise McKinney’s school taxes to the highest allowable level by law in the state of Texas.
According to the budget presentation discussed during the board meeting, the 13-cent increase would mean an annual tax increase of $268.59 for a home valued at $221,611. According to the presentation, a home valued at $221,611 is the current average home valuation in McKinney.
Whether the tax increase will become law is now in the hands of McKinney’s citizens. The school board announced that there would be a special tax election on September 21 that will give McKinney’s residents the opportunity to approve to tax increase.
If the tax increase is not approved, MISD may be forced to cut its budget by greater than $10 million to reach a balanced budget. Dr. Edd Bigbee, McKinney ISD’s Chief Financial Officer, told the board that raising the taxes was the only way to make up for the projected budget deficit of $10.7 million for 2014.
Dr. Bigbee told the school board that the projected budget shortfall is due to the need to hire new teachers to maintain the current student-teacher ratio, the rising cost of health insurance and a continued reduction in education funding from the state.
McKinney School Board President Curtis Rippee told TownSquareBuzz.com that by raising the taxes to the maximum allowable level, it would actually trigger an increase in funding by the state. Rippee said that this increase in state funding would help to maintain a balanced MISD budget in the future.
The alternative to the tax increase would be to cut the budget by the projected deficit of $10.7 million. Dr. J.D. Kennedy, MISD’s Superintendent, told the board that the 2011 district budget cut of $5 million led to the laying off of 134 teachers. He said that a cut of $10 million would almost certainly lead to people and programs being cut.
Rippee told TSB that 2011’s cuts hit the district hard. “In 2011, we felt like we could cut all that we could cut,” he said. “You’ve got a choice. You either have to cut $10 million in cost or raise taxes. The board felt that cutting again would harm the quality of the education system in McKinney.”
Rippee acknowledged the board’s reluctance to pass a tax increase onto the citzens of McKinney, but views it as necessary to maintain the high level of education in McKinney. “No one wants to raise taxes,” he said. “We don’t like it at all, but we have a fiduciary responsibility to provide a quality education.”
Rippee said it’s now in the hands of the McKinney voters to determine the course of MISD’s future. “We don’t like it (raising taxes) but we feel that it’s the right answer,” he said. “The community now has to decide what they want to do.”
Dr. Bigbee said that increasing the property tax by 13 cents would generate $13.7 million in additional revenue. That additional revenue would lead McKinney ISD to have a budget surplus of $3 million in 2014. Rippee told TSB that the budget surplus of $3 million would be returned to the “rainy day” fund, which is a contingency fund used to fund budget shortfalls. Rippee said that MISD has dipped into the fund in the last two school years to ensure a balanced budget.
The school board unanimously approved the tax increase despite the protestations of nine McKinney taxpayers who urged the board to cut administrative costs over increasing taxes. Speaker after speaker told the board that the district needed to learn to live within it means, cut spending, and called for the cutting of non-teacher positions.
One speaker, David O’Connor, told the board that there are far too many assistant principals in McKinney’s schools. O’Connor, who is a teacher at a Dallas charter school and a MISD parent, called the proposed tax increase “the greatest in MISD’s history.” O’Connor also called the tax plan a “rip-off” and urged the board to vote against the tax increase.
The board acknowledged all who spoke in opposition of the tax increase but ultimately voted to increase the tax burden on McKinney’s citizens. It will now fall to McKinney’s residents to determine if they want to pay more to fund their local schools or not.