The Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees will discuss options for a possible tax ratification election during a noon meeting Monday.
A bond and tax ratification election failed in November 2017, but given district budget constraints there are several ideas in the mix.
Possibilities will be covered during an open meeting, but there is a place holder for a closed meeting to give the board leeway in case something comes up that the attorneys for the school district say needs to be in executive session, Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said.
The board also will consider a request for approval to adopt the tax rate for fiscal year 2018-19 before receiving the certified appraisal toll and before adopting a budget.
The certified rolls are issued in July, Adkins said.
Members also will consider a request to determine the amount of proposed tax rate to be published to give notice of a future board meeting for the purpose of discussing and adopting the proposed tax rate.
Superintendent Tom Crowe said voters could be asked to consider an 8 cent tax ratification election in the fall and another one in the future if a bond passes.
If called by ECISD trustees, the tax election would be in September, Crowe said.
Board members note there is a need for the revenue a TRE would bring in, but Vice President Doyle Woodall said he’s not sure if there is a consensus among the panel members.
He added that he doesn’t anticipate having a second TRE.
Woodall said there are many factors to consider with Crowe announcing his retirement, effective in December.
“It makes things more complicated. We’re going to discuss that (Monday) and just see what the board decides on that. As far as me, I’m kind of on the fence right now. I haven’t decided to or not to. To tell you the truth, the board just needs more information. We should have a pretty good idea at the end of the meeting (Monday) whether we’re going to pursue a TRE (and) if so in what amount? Is September the best time to do it,” or should the district wait for a new superintendent to be in place, Woodall said.
Trustee Delma Abalos said she doesn’t think there’s any doubt there’s a need for a tax ratification election. She added that she thinks there is board consensus.
“I just don’t see any way out of it. It doesn’t mean it will pass, but we need to at least try,” Abalos said.
Donna Smith, board secretary, said the idea of a tiered TRE has been floated, but there are questions about whether it can be done or not.
Adkins said attorneys for the school district are determining the feasibility of a tiered TRE.
Having a tiered TRE would mean if ECISD went for the 13 cents, they could give voters choices. For example, if people voted for one TRE package, Smith said, it would give teachers raises; if they voted for another it would cover school safety and security.
“The idea was if you were specific and gave the voters a choice it might be an inducement to vote. It’s kind of an out-of-the-box concept …,” Smith said.
“As it was left, my understanding was we would look into it. It might be too much for the timeline we’re operating under, but it’s kind of a cool idea and we were exploring it,” she said.
Over the last three years, Crowe has said $30 million has been cut out of the budget. With the estimated increase in assessed values, he said the district will get about $14 million. If a TRE is approved by voters, it would bring in about $11 million.
“Right now in our budget for next year, we have no raises for anybody,” Crowe said.
“… We’re looking at new buses, police cars, controlled entrances into the schools things like that.”
School taxes for people over 65 are frozen.
A second TRE could come about if a bond passes and be for 5 cents to run the schools, Crowe said.
A bond advisory committee has been meeting to discuss a possible bond issue.
“We asked for 13 cents last time,” Crowe said. “Half was to run the schools. The other part was for raises. This is going to be separated out. If the bond passes, we’ll ask for the other 5 cents to run the schools, which is a dangerous maneuver, but at least we’re being upfront with people.”
Crowe added that this time he’s going to be a proponent of packages for a bond issue.
“It will be up to the bond committee and the board,” he said.
For example, Crowe said, the choices could be a career and technical education center and lifecycle needs in one package; one for high schools; and one for middle and elementary schools.
Crowe said he doesn’t think this will be too confusing.
“I’ve never done packages before, never believed in them before, but I learned the voters out here vote a little bit differently than other places. So you’ve got to give people choices, I believe, here,” Crowe said.
He added that when the bond and TRE failed in November 2017, people didn’t understand it.
This time, the needs have =to be clearly explained, he said.
On a separate topic, several principals are retiring and some of the campuses are going to be reconfigured so this will mean some changes. In April, trustees also approved reconfiguring four elementary schools — Travis and Zavala and Noel and Pease — to get them off of improvement required status under state accountability ratings.
Crowe said some of the moves haven’t been finalized yet.
“(I’m) trying to pull on people’s strengths and place them in places that will help schools and then utilize their strengths as they move forward,” Crowe said.
There could be some changes later on, as well, he said.