La Feria News

La Feria Board to Seek Taxpayers Approval for TRE Election

Same Tax Rate will Generate Additional $2 Million

The La Feria Independent School District is proposing a tax rate of $1.299 per $100 valuation, minutely under last year’s rate.

However, the School Board is required to call a Tax Ratification Election for November 5 because they are asking to change how the taxes can be spent by moving the percentages held in the Maintenance and Operations Fund M&O (monies used for salaries and day-to-day operations) and in the Debt Service Fund I&S (monies used to finance construction, equipment or both approved by voters as part of a bond package). The district will recognize an additional $2 million to spend in the operating fund if the action is approved by taxpayers.

After a public hearing, the board approved a 13 cent increase to the M&O rate from $1.04 to $1.17 and on the ballot the I&S rate will state $0.26 which the board assured would be dropped to $.013 if the TRE is approved by the taxpayers. This would result in basically the same tax rate as last year. The board took this action at a special called meeting held Monday, August 26.

“I am proposing a three-tiered plan that will make use of the extra funds if this measure is approved. Number one is we need to give the staff raises for better teacher retention and improvement. This is the number one issue I have identified. Secondly, there are some major repairs needed including some roofs. I would like to also see added safety with cameras on buses and improved security at campus entrances. Another issue we need to address is shoring up technology in the classroom,” commented LFISD Superintendent Rey Villarreal.

A 2011 TRE Election failed in La Feria by two votes after some felt like the board at the time was split on the issue and some actually worked against the passage of the TRE. The board unanimously approved the tax rate adjustment last Monday night giving the indication they would all work to encourage residents to approve the election. Below are 2012 rates for local districts:

HARLINGEN C.I.S.D 1.040000 0.178000 1.2180
LA FERIA I.S.D 1.040000 0.260000 1.3000
LOS FRESNOS C.I.S.D 1.170000 0.020000 1.1900
LYFORD C.I.S.D. 1.170000 0.160000 1.3300
POINT ISABEL I.S.D 0.981190 0.100450 1.0816
RIO HONDO I.S.D 1.170000 0.139100 1.3091
SAN BENITO I.S.D 1.170000 0.134900 1.3049
SANTA MARIA I.S.D 1.040000 0.240000 1.2800
SANTA ROSA I.S.D 1.170000 0.202200 1.3722

If voters approve the election and the school board reduces the I&S tax rate by 13 cents the new chart would look like this:

La Feria ISD 1.17 0.1291 1.2991

The Cameron County Appraisal District only noted a two percent increase in taxable property values which will amount to about $50,000 in increased revenues. The average market value of a La Feria residence is $62,836, up $738 from last year. The average taxable value of the same residence is $48,768 with taxes around $633 per year at the $1.30 rate.

The district will conduct several workshops to explain the TRE election before the November 5 election.

It will cost the school district an additional $549,000 to provide health insurance through the South Texas Health Co-op for district employees for this coming budget year. The coverage will remain about the same, but will add prescription drug coverage. This is an increase from $265 to $346 per month for each of the district’s 565 staff members. The cost will also increase for the employees’ portion when they add their spouse and children to the plan.
The board approved the $35.9 million total budget with the insurance cost adjustments, additional bus ($90,000) order and a $500 one-time stipend for employees.
“There was a increase in revenues to cover additional increase in expenditures in our health insurance plans for the coming year. We are proposing a budget that is very slim and there is no room for additional expenditures,” added Finance Director Ramon Mendoza at a special meeting of the board Monday, August 26.
He added that they are not building any student population growth into the budget since no growth has been seen in a few years. In the past, LFISD always added 20-100 students per year to the rolls.
Out of the $27.5 million General Fund, the district receives 85 percent of funding from the State of Texas, 14 percent from local taxes and fees and one percent from the federal government. Eighty-one percent of that funding is spent on payroll. Eighty-one percent of the expenses are spent on payroll.
The district currently has an enrollment of 3484 students at seven campuses.

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