EPISD considering tax ratification election

EPISD considering tax ratification election
KTSM
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POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 10:21pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 10:30pm

District says election would not propose tax hike

Here are three words you probably haven't read in a while: tax ratification election.

During a Bowie High School community budget meeting Tuesday evening, El Paso Independent School District officials said a tax ratification election, or TRE, is under consideration as potential fix for the district's funding issues.

District finance officials told the small crowd of roughly 15 people that EPISD's budget shortfall now appears to be closer to $17 million, rather than the $12 million officials previously reported.

District officials say the shortfall is mostly the result of reduced state funding due to declining enrollment.

EPISD has proposed cost-cutting measures that include the displacement of 131 teaching positions, the elimination of one of two preparation periods for teachers, and raising the student to teacher ratio at middle and high school campuses.

Senior Resource Analyst José Lopez told NewsChannel 9 a TRE would not necessarily mean asking property taxpayers to pay more.

Lopez explained that EPISD's funds are split in two.

There's a tax rate that generates money for costs associated maintenance and operations, and another rate for the district's debt.

Lopez said simply adjusting those rates by 3 cents could generate more than $12 million.

"One (tax rate) would increase and the other would decrease," Lopez said, adding that the move would not require raising taxes for property owners.

"There is a process," Lopez said. "It has to go through our board, our leadership."

It also has to go before voters, and that's where it could get tricky for EPISD.

Taxpayers overwhelmingly said no the district's last TRE in June of 2010. That proposal, however, did include a tax hike.

After Tuesday's meeting, Luis Cordero - a proud Bowie alum and current EPISD taxpayer - said he's open to the idea of a TRE, but with conditions.

"They would really have to show us where (the money) is coming from and what it's doing to help mitigate the $17 million (budget shortfall)."

The meeting at Bowie was the 8th in a series of 10 public outreach efforts by the district.

The final two are next Monday at Franklin High School and next Tuesday at Coronado High School, both at 5 p.m.

You can review some of the district's finances for yourself by clicking the link below:

http://www.episd.org/departments/finance/

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