FISD mulls 'tax swap' to meet needs

Move would not affect taxpayers, but would require voter approval

Fredericksburg Independent School District board of trustees may pursue a “tax swap” in lieu of more help from the Texas Legislature, trustees heard at a Monday meeting.

FISD could potentially follow other school districts and move two to three cents from its interest-and-sinking (debt) fund into its maintenance-and-operations fund to provide about $600,000 more in operating funds. The move would require voter approval, but would not mean any additional levy on taxpayers.

Supt. Eric Wright said he and Deborah Ottmers, assistant superintendent for business and finance, explored how to get a revenue boost to the district in light of consistently declining funding from the state.

“Once the state decided not to pass House Bill 21 [to provide more funding to public education], we found ourselves in a position where we need to generate more dollars,” Wright said.

Ottmers found a three-cent move would net the district $600,000 for maintenance and operations. But the move also would mean submitting about $200,000 to $300,000 more to the state in “recapture funds,” since its debt load would, in essence, be lowered.

The district’s bonding capacity — the amount it could issue in taxpayer debt — would drop from 10 cents to 7 cents. That means its absolute debt capacity limit would drop from $18.5 million to about $11 million.

Trustees openly wondered if the district was hamstringing itself when looking at facilities needs five or more years in the future.

Wright said the district had explored ways to help its employees, including forming a foundation, and even offering some employee housing.

“Ultimately, we’re in the people business,” he said. “And we can’t afford to not give raises anymore.”            

“I don’t like to pay any additional recapture, but I also don’t like the idea of never giving raises to our teachers,” said trustee Dave Campbell.

“We’ve been saying for 12 years the state will do something [to fix funding],” Ottmers said.

“We have to do something to take care of our teachers,” said Lance Love, board member. “And this is the only thing available.”

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