By Mark Estrada
This November, voters will have the chance to decide on a Penny Put-Back through a Voter Approved Tax Ratification Election or VATRE.
Lockhart ISD funding is not wholly funded by local tax collection. 40 percent of school district funding comes from local tax collection. The other 60 percent comes from other state and federal funding sources. If you had an increase in your property value, the school district does not see any increase in revenue from an increase in local tax collection. When our local tax collection increases, our state funding is reduced by the same amount. For example, when we went from 30 percent local tax collection last year to 40 percent this school year, rather than Lockhart ISD getting an increase in funding, the state decreased its funding of our school district proportionately, dollar for dollar.
The VATRE, if approved, would provide a .74 penny decrease in the school tax rate. It would also generate nearly $1 million that the district would use for school safety and competitive teacher pay.
The ballot language voters will see related to the VATRE states:
“Ratifying the ad valorem tax rate of $1.1223 in Lockhart ISD for the current year, a rate that will result in an increase of 21.027 percent in maintenance and operations tax revenue for the district for the current year as compared to the preceding year, which is an additional $4,115,923.”
This is the ballot language that the state requires. Here is some additional information about the language to help voters understand its parts.
In August, the LISD Board approved a school tax rate of $1.1223 per $100 valuation. This is one penny over the voter-approved tax rate, putting a penny back into the tax rate to generate funding from the state that is double the local collection.
This 21.027 percent increase in the maintenance and operations tax revenue is not a percentage increase in tax collection due to the tax rate. Also, it is not a percentage increase in additional revenue for the school district due to the tax rate. This is a total increase in collections, overall, from the tax year 2021 to tax year 2022 due to the increase in property in Lockhart ISD as well as the increase in property values in the district. It is not an increase in the school tax rate. There is a decrease of .0074 pennies in the tax rate.
Third, the ballot language mentions an additional revenue of $4,115,923. This is not due to an increase in the school tax rate. This increase is due to total tax collection from tax year 2021 to tax year 2022. This increase is due to the increase in property in Lockhart ISD and the increase in property values in the district area.
The revenue received by the Penny Put-Back through the VATRE is actually $270,000 from local taxpayers. What makes it a golden penny is that TEA will double the amount collected in local tax collection, generating nearly $1 million each year moving forward. The school district intends to allocate this towards school’s safety and competitive teacher pay.
While the school tax rate will not increase, due to increased property values, the average homeowner will see a monthly school tax bill increase of $8.33 if the bond and VATRE are approved. It would be $6 per month if not approved. The difference is $1.33 per month.
For persons 65 and older, the Texas Constitution allows those who have qualified homestead exemption to be exempt from an increase in school district property tax increases. In the case of this year’s election, no taxpayer will experience an increase in the school tax rate.
Early voting continues through Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 8.