Area residents to see slight changes in district taxes

Published 1:26 pm Saturday, September 5, 2015

NISD, PAISD adopt balanced budgets; PN-GISD adopts $1.5 million deficit

 By Chelsea Henderson and Mary Meaux

The News staff writers

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As students throughout the state are settling into the new school year, public school districts are working to finalize their property tax incomes for the new fiscal year that began Sept 1.

The boards of trustees for the Nederland, Port Arthur and Port Neches-Groves Independent School Districts have adopted 2015-16 budgets, and two out of three have finalized their revenue streams by adopting new tax rates.

Nederland ISD adopted a balanced budget and increased its tax rate slightly to account for larger debt service payments, while Port Arthur ISD — also starting the 2015-16 year with a balanced budget — lowered its tax rate slightly to offset increased property values.

Port Neches-Groves ISD adopted a $1.5 million deficit budget and is still finalizing its tax rate.


The NISD board of trustees raised taxes slightly, by 1.5 cents per $100 property valuation, specifically to finance increased debt service payments scheduled to begin next year.

Melissa Wong, NISD business manager, said the district has been making $2.5 million debt service payments, but payments for the next three years are all around $3 million — an increase she believes will be entirely offset by the new Interest and Sinking tax collections.

“The Interest and Sinking tax is what pays off our debt service, so it’s natural for that rate to change depending on what payments the district has coming up,” Wong said. “That very small increase of 1.5 cents will be enough to cover that extra $500,000 we need to make our 2016 to 2018 payments, and then we can reevaluate that tax rate when our payments drop back down.”

The NISD board adopted a Maintenance and Operations tax rate of $1.04 — the same as in 2014-15 — and an Interest and Sinking rate of $0.12. Each tax rate is for each $100 of property value.

The combined tax rate for the district is $1.16 — 1.5 cents higher than the $1.145 adopted rate of 2014-15 and 5.14 cents higher than the district’s effective tax rate, or the rate needed to raise the same amount of funds as the previous year.

The district adopted a balanced budget of $40,442,000 that includes a 4 percent salary increase for all NISD teachers, administrators, instructional support staff and administrative support staff.

“You won’t find many districts putting their money where their mouth is like this,” Michael Laird, NISD assistant superintendent for personnel and auxiliary services, said in an August budget hearing. “We’re fortunate we’ve continued to attract such high-quality applicants. Packages like this help us retain our employees and stops people from poaching us.”


The PAISD board of trustees lowered taxes slightly, by .04 cents, to offset “excellent” property values certified by the Jefferson County Appraisal District earlier this summer.

Phyllis Geans, PAISD chief financial officer and assistant superintendent for business and finance, said property values increased so much throughout Port Arthur the district had to lower its rate from $1.3535 per $100 valuation or face an election.

The district adopted the rollback tax rate, the highest rate a district can tax residents without calling an election, of $1.35314 per $100 valuation — even though the district’s effective tax rate, or the rate needed to raise the same amount of money as the previous years, is $1.65752.

Geans said the district’s Maintenance and Operations tax rate stayed the same at $1.04, and the district’s Interest and Sinking tax rate was reduced to $0.31314.

“The M&O can only go up if the district calls for a tax ratification election, so the highest it can go without voter approval is $1.04 per $100 property valuation,” Geans said Friday. “The I&S fluctuates to pay off the debt service for school bonds the voter has already approved, and we’re very healthy with our debt service right now.

“We work with our financial advisors to make smart moves in the district. Even if our rollback rate wasn’t $1.35314, our board still could have reduced the I&S rate — because our payments are at a point now where the rate we have will not only allow us to pay our bills, but pay some of them early.”

Geans said even though the district lowered its tax rate, some residents may still end up paying more in taxes to the district.

“The average property values from last year to this year went up from $59,663 to $61,343, so it is possible for some people to still end up paying us a little more in taxes — I’d say $25 at the most — depending on how much their property values increased,” she said.

The PAISD board adopted a balanced budget of $76,746,008 that includes a 3 percent raise for all PAISD employees, as well as stipends for employees in certain departments.

Stipends of $1,840 to $3,280 will be awarded to employees working in bilingual, ESL and special education in all schools, and math, science and foreign language in the middle and high schools.


PN-GISD is looking to keep the same tax rate as last year. The rate of $1.444 is below the rollback rate of $1.462 and slightly above the effective rate of $1.443.

The rate includes $1.04 for maintenance and operations and $.404 for the interest and sinking rate.

The monies will be used to fund the 22015-2016 fiscal year general fund budget of $40.8 million. Business Manager Sheri Drawhorn said the budget is a deficit budget with $1.5 million in the red.

The reason, she said, is the loss of about $1 million in foreign trade zone in lieu of payments.

The district is looking to make a lump payment of $970,000 to pay down some of the principle on their debt service. The current indebtedness is $112.2 million stemming for seven bonds. They include refunding bonds series 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015.