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Publication date - Saturday, September 11, 1999


PISD mulls tax rate increase

Staff writer

The Plano Independent School District Board of Trustees will decide Tuesday whether it will raise property taxes again, and, if it does, by how much.

Two tax proposals are on the agenda for the 7 p.m. meeting, which was postponed after last week's shooting death at Vines High School, where a sophomore committed suicide.

The first proposal would raise taxes to $1.57 per $100 of property valuation. The second would raise the rate to $1.58. Currently, the tax rate is $1.54. The second option is being proposed to fund additional retirement benefits for teachers.

Both plans fall well short of the amount that would necessitate a special rollback election before the rates could be raised.

Jim Damm, assistant superintendent for business services, said the formula to figure out that number takes up about a page and a half, but that it boils down to the effective tax rate, which is the rate a district would have to charge to educate this year's students at last year's funding levels. A raise of more than 8 cents would require an election.

This year the magic number to trigger an election is $1.62. Because the effective tax rate is actually higher than the proposed tax rates for PISD, "the state, in its infinite wisdom, would probably call it a tax cut," Damm said. "But we won't. It's an increase."

Some community members are not pleased with the prospect of another tax hike. Homeowner advocate Jim Wilck, in fact, was hoping for a tax cut because of increased appraisals in the district. "I see them as getting more revenue without raising taxes," he said.

Wilck also is unhappy with the state of Plano education. "The quality of education keeps going lower and lower, and the price keeps going up and up," he said. "We have ever-increasing taxes for a diminishing product and diminishing services."

Wilck is particularly suspicious of PISD's assertion that the state's "Robin Hood" recapture program is to blame. Robin Hood is a 6-year-old law that recaptures property tax revenue from property-wealthy districts and distributes it to property-poor districts throughout the state.

"There are other districts that pay into Robin Hood that don't have the problems Plano does," Wilck said.

Community activist Ed Cage said the proposed increase was "the largest increase in the history of Plano."

Cage blames overbuilding by the city for the high taxes and PISD's financial problems. He said that the city is making it too easy for developers to build too many homes, and that the property values of those homes do not generate enough tax revenue to cover the cost of educating the children who live there.

"The city's making money like water," Cage said. "But PISD is hemorrhaging."

Cage said he also is concerned about what he sees as excessive administrative costs for PISD. "There were no administrative cuts," he said. "All the fat cats got all their nice raises. We can't afford to pay for these things."

PISD budget director Myra Conklin defended the increases on the basis of the pressures of Robin Hood and the state-mandated pay raises for teachers this year. The state did decrease the percentage of recapture; however, because of increased property values, PISD will still pay $11 million more in recapture than it did last year. In addition, the raises for teachers represents $13 million.

"The tax rate still has to increase to cover [the pay raises], even though recapture did decrease, and we're very glad about [the decrease in recapture]," Conklin said. "We'd much rather have this money that would have been going to recapture go to our teachers, but we still have to raise the tax rate to cover it."


Contact staff writer Jonathan M. Bell at 972-424-4585, Ext. 1265, or by e-mail at jonathan_m_bell@hotmail.com.