Diane S.W. Lee
Carroll ISD voters will be asked to head to the polls Sept. 15 and decide whether the district can raise its maintenance and operations tax rate by two cents. The special tax ratification election was called this week in a 6-1 vote by trustees looking to ease the pain of budget cuts that have resulted in a roughly $3 million shortfall for the 2012-13 year. Trustee Fred Stovall voted against the measure.
A handful of residents spoke against the move at Monday's meeting, calling for trustees to consider other ways to cut and think harder about asking to raise taxes during tough economic times. In the end, though, trustees reminded the small crowd that had gathered to hear nearly two hours of discussion and public comment that their vote this week only served to put the item on a ballot.
“I think it's expected of us to give the voters a choice,” board President Read Ballew said.
If voters approve the measure in September, however, their overall tax rate will increase by only a half cent this year. That is because in addition to calling for the two-cent TRE, trustees also approved a 1.5-cent decrease on the interest and sinking — or debt repayment — side of their tax rate, setting the overall tax rate at $1.42 per $100 of valuation.
If the TRE fails in September, taxpayers will still see a 1.5-cent drop in their tax rate in the coming year. But the majority of trustees expressed hope that lowering the rate on one side would make taxpayers more comfortable with increasing it on the other, where money is more desperately needed.
“I think you tax what you need to tax and don't tax more than you need to tax,” Ballew said.
With the average Carroll ISD home value estimated at just below $432,690 this year, an overall half-cent increase in the tax rate would amount to a tax increase of just under $22 this year. That adds up quickly, though, for the cash-strapped district. Officials estimate that a two-cent increase in the M&O tax rate will amount to a roughly $1.1 million bump in the district's budget annually.