Tax election fever sweeping Hidalgo County school districts

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Most Hidalgo County voters will see local school finances on their ballots this November.

At least eight school districts in the county have ordered tax rate elections, while two school districts are trying to pass bonds.

Monday was the last day to pass an order for a tax rate election.

Hidalgo, Mission, Monte Alto, PSJA and Progreso school districts all appear to have ordered elections Monday evening, joining Edinburg, La Joya and McAllen, which had already ordered elections.

School levies will go down this year through tax compression; a tax rate election allows districts to seek voter approval for reducing the amount taxes decrease.

Generally, Hidalgo County districts that have ordered elections expect a yes-vote to mean millions more dollars for the district at a relatively small or nonexistent impact to taxpayers — who will be getting reduced school taxes regardless of whether elections pass.

Hidalgo ISD expects a successful tax rate election to generate a little over $1.2 million in local taxes and state funding that the district would use for instructional materials and facilities.

According to the district, if the election passes, the new tax rate would be $1.2028, which still represents a decrease of 2.94 cents.

In contrast to other districts, the Mission CISD school board is pursuing a “penny swap” tax rate election.

According to a news release, if the election passes the district would reallocate 3.17 cents from its interest and sinking tax rate to its maintenance and operation rate, which it says will give it a financial advantage without changing its current $1.113 tax rate.

Buses are seen at the McAllen ISD School Bus Depot on May 9, 2008. (James Colburn/The Monitor)

“The tax rate paid by local homeowners will not increase,” Superintendent Carol G. Perez wrote. “However, Mission CISD could see an additional $2.7 million (or more) annually in state aid.”

The release says that the district’s tax rate is one of the lowest in the county and that the district’s board has reduced that rate by .2372 cents over the past six years.

PSJA ISD, meanwhile, is asking voters to approve a new maintenance and operations tax rate of $0.7892, which the district says would allow it to keep 3.17 cents that would otherwise be eliminated.

It’s not clear how much money that difference would generate for the district.

A district news release notes that PSJA residents have seen a 38-cent tax reduction over the last eight years.

According to a Progreso ISD election order posted on Hidalgo County’s website, trustees convened and approved a tax rate election on Aug. 21, although no agenda for an Aug. 21 meeting appears on the Progreso ISD website with other agendas.

Superintendent Sergio Coronado did not reply to a request for comment on that agenda, nor to questions on the election trustees ordered.

According to the election order, a successful tax rate election would set the district’s maintenance and operation tax rate at $0.7892.

Monte Alto ISD has also ordered a tax rate that would set its maintenance and operations tax at $0.7892.

Superintendent Isaac Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment on the election order.