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SISD lowers tax rate again, talks possible future bond

For the fifth year in a row, Sharyland ISD lowered the tax rate for residents. And for the second year in a row, the board of trustees approved a defeasance to pay off district debt sooner. 

At the Aug. 28 meeting, the board of trustees approved a $0.9575 tax rate per $100 valuation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year — a decrease of $0.1659 from last year. 

SISD has been able to lower the tax rate every year since 2019 because of a state finance bill lawmakers passed during the 86th legislative session. House Bill 3 mandated districts compress their maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate to increase per-student funding and reduce property taxes throughout Texas. The M&O fund exclusively pays for district operations such as salaries, utilities, supplies and contracted services. 

But the M&O tax rate is just one component that makes up SISD’s total tax rate; the other is the interest and sinking rate (I&S). 

The district exclusively uses the I&S fund to pay bond debt payments. At the Aug. 28 meeting, the trustees also approved an increase to the I&S tax rate to $0.2000. With this increase, Sharyland can pay its bond debt sooner and save on interest. The only way SISD could increase the I&S rate and still lower the whole tax rate was because of the state-mandated compression on the M&O side. 

But this tax rate sets up the district for another bond opportunity in the future. 

“[The] thought here is that if we keep it at $0.20, the taxpayers are still seeing almost a 17% decrease in total tax rate,” Chief Financial Officer Jaime Ortega said. ”But what it does for the district is it gets us in a better position for, in a year or two, [when] we could possibly go out for a bond…in a range of $45-$50 million. And again we would be in a position where we could let our taxpayers know that they wouldn’t be seeing a higher tax rate from what we currently have.” 

Two and three years ago, Sharyland constituents voted against two bonds that would not have raised taxes. The district planned to use the funds to fix long-standing facility issues at John H. Shary Elementary and Sharyland High School. Since then, SISD has had to find different ways to renovate through grants or local funding. However, because of the lack of funds, the projects must occur over a more prolonged period. 

In the past, Superintendent Dr. Maria Vidaurri expressed disappointment when the bonds failed because the students would have benefited most from the additional funds. 

“Our goal was to be able to do as much as we could, as fast as we could for the students that we’re serving to give them the best possible facilities that are conducive to learning, that are safe, that are meeting the needs of what we’re expecting our kids to do, and what the workforce expects our kids to do when they leave us,” Vidaurri said in a 2021 Progress Times interview. 

Now, the district leader prepares for another potential shot at a bond.  

“This kind of gets us ready for the future. We know what’s happening and we know we’re going to need [a bond] at some point because something is going to give,” she said. “But this puts the district in a good position, at that point, to kind of do it the same way we did — it’s at no cost [to the taxpayers.]”

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