Plano ISD proposes tax rate increase to cover budget shortfall

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by JOBIN PANICKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @jobinpnews

WFAA

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 17 at 9:19 AM

PLANO -- Plano ISD Superintendent Richard Matkin said the district can’t keep dipping into reserves as the district faces another budget deficit.

That’s why he’s proposed a tax rate increase that still needs board approval for a vote, and later, public approval.

“If you're going to cut $20 million out of the yearly budget, there is no way to get around impacting the campus,” Matkin said.

He said while the district has always employed sound financial strategies, the options to fund an "adequate" education for its students are becoming fewer and fewer.

“We have good enough programs that we’re willing to pay out of reserves til we get relief from the courts, relief from the legislature, or another revenue stream from our tax payers," Matkin said. "And, unfortunately, we’re down to option number three."

Plano ISD is entering the 2013-14 school year with a $20 million shortfall. The superintendent said that money is roughly what his district lost out on when the state tried to fund all Texas districts the same through equalization. Plano ISD only received one-third of what it is owed, to the tune of $11 million.

“We think you need to bring the middle up, rather than the upper down,” Matkin said.

Matkin is seeking a 13-cent increase to the maintenance and operating tax rate, which is currently at $1.04. Associate Superintendent Steve Fortenberry estimates the increase would raise $30.5 million for the district. The district would also delay paying down the debt, which would reduce the debt service tax by five cents.

For a home worth $250,000, property owners would see an increase of $187 annually.

“It's a Band-Aid fix," said Ross Kecseg of Empower Texans. "When the districts issue the debt, they don't think about the long-term consequence."

He thinks the heavily-indebted Plano ISD needs to focus on debt and find efficiencies. State records show that the district carried $976.6 million in outstanding debt.

“You can't say it's a bad thing when it's going to schools,” said Tracy Laizenbich, a parent to two Plano ISD students.

Matkin said if the board approves putting it on the ballot, but voters say no, it would mean eliminating course selections, increasing class sizes, and making cuts across the board.

A meeting for public input is scheduled for next Tuesday night.

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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