Mineola ISD tax rate falls

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Mineola school tax payers will see their property tax rate decrease by more than 10 cents while teachers and other staff members will benefit from pay raises thanks to additional state funds.

But it was the cost of the separation agreement with former Superintendent Kim Tunnell and the future of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program that led to most of the questions at Friday’s public hearing prior to approval of the tax rate and 2019-20 school budget.

Questions included where the money would come from to pay a $117,000 severance amount to Tunnell and how much additional the district might be penalized.

Board President John Abbott said the district is not being penalized, because the amount of the agreement is for a term of less than a year.

Business Manager William Bjork said the money would likely come from the district’s fund balance (around $7.5 million).

Angie Ruffin questioned whether the decision to separate with Tunnell was fiscally responsible.

To a question on the board’s support for the CTE program, and specifically a proposal that Mineola house a regional CTE hub, Abbott said the board has always supported CTE and receives CTE updates at every board meeting.

He also said that the board has already voted to accept a grant for the CTE hub.

Abbott said that he had met with Warren Brown with the Mineola Foundation and Assistant Superintendent Mark Parkerson about what lies ahead.

There will be several steps before the district knows what financial commitment may be needed to have the hub located here, Abbott said.

Brown said there are short term needs to ensure enough support for CTE programs next fall. It will be at least next May before the district could consider a bond election, if that is what’s needed to establish a facility for the hub. And then construction would take another year or so, putting the opening of a hub no sooner than the fall of 2021.

Amounts of any additional grants will also impact the district’s financial commitment.

Also questioned at the hearing was what is being done to address the failing grade the district’s elementary campus received from the state due to test scores.

A literacy coach and an additional fifth grade teacher have been hired, and Abbott said that as the improvement plan is formulated, there may be additional needs for the district to address.

Bjork said the district’s $1.17 per $100 property tax rate is dropping to $1.06835, thanks to an infusion of about $1.5 million from the state.

The district’s tax rate has been $1.17 since around 2007.

The budget is up from $14,545,658 last year to $15,783,224 for the coming year.

Of that, $502,927 is for teacher pay raises, $74,438 for clerical and auxiliary staff raises, and $13,997 for administration raises.

On the revenue side, $6,433,485 comes from property taxes, which is up from $5,980,836 last year. Despite the decreased tax rate, the district gained $88 million in property values.

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