After forgoing tax increases for the past 10-years, the city’s school district is contemplating a possible property tax increase to balance its budget, according to education officials.
“At some point the board has to get into a discussion,” said Christopher Irving, school board president. “It’s not going to be an easy one to have.”
After the municipal government balanced its budget by increasing property taxes for an average property worth $350,000 by almost $1,000, the city is in no mood for another tax hike.
Irving has re-assured that this is merely a conversation, and it may not happen this year, but might in the near future. Indeed, a preliminary budget document in front of the school board states, the “tax levy revenue is being held equal to the fiscal year 2014 tax levy revenue” – in other words, no property tax increases.
Richard Kilpatrick, the district’s business administrator, did not affirm or deny whether a property tax increase is likely in the school’s 2014 budget or in next year’s budget. It appears though the district has enough money to forgo any property tax increases for this year; however, next year the district will not have any reserves left to plug deficits.
For the past number of years the district used millions of dollars from its reserve funds to balance budgets. That fund, according to Kilpatrick, is depleted after this fiscal year – the district will use $6,490,858 to balance this year’s budget from its reserves. “We will be using the last of our maintenance reserve funds,” said Kilpatrick.
The budget of $594,716,254 appears balanced based on the highlighted revenue information provided during Wednesday’s school board meeting with the added six million from the district’s reserve funds. Last year’s school budget was $570,576,738, unless there is a drastic increase in spending, the district can manage for this year. However, the next year’s budget will lack the reserve funds, thus possibly burdening residents with a six million dollar increase.
Speaking in what appears to be coded language without full detail or context the business administrator said, “We can increase the tax levy by six million dollars.” Despite the calculation and comparison between this year’s and last year’s budget numbers, the question remains whether the district intends to increase property taxes this year.
“The reaction that we got when we voted to switch the elections is nothing compared to the reaction we will get if the word gets out the school board raised taxes,” said Corey Teague, school board member, predicting a backlash against the school board.