CCISD board receives proposed 2018-2019 budget

By LYNETTE SOWELL 
Cove Leader-Press 

The Copperas Cove Independent School District board of trustees held a special meeting on Monday evening, during which the board received the proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year. 
With the presentation, the board was able to see two proposed budgets for the year, one if the September 8 tax ratification election passes, the other if it doesn’t. 
The outcome of that election, whether or not Copperas Cove voters approve a proposed tax rate “switch” of moving 13 cents of the district’s current 18 cents per $100 for debt service rate over to the maintenance and operations tax rate, will have a stark effect on the funds for the district’s maintenance and operations, to the tune of $4.1 million increase if the TRE passes.
Also if the TRE passes, the district will go with a general operating budget of $73,114,687, a combination of local revenues of $16,993,225, state funding of $45,846,869, federal revenue of $7,195,000, and TRS on-behalf/in-kind funding of $3,079,593. 
Conversely, if the TRE does not pass, the district’s proposed budget will be $69,019,262, which includes $15,474,067 in local revenue and $43,270,602 in state funding, with the federal revenue and TRS funding remaining the same. 
The $69 million budget is approximately $700,000 less than the district’s 2014-2015 budget, with approved budgets from subsequent years amounting to $70,255,335 (2015-2016), $70,876,070 (2016-2017), $71,890,339 (2017-2018).
CCISD superintendent Joe Burns reiterated to the board that in the end, the taxpayers’ rate will remain the same overall, at a total of $1.22 per $100 valuation, regardless of the election’s outcome.
CCISD’s director of financial services, June Crawford, also explained that if the TRE is successful, the district’s maintenance and operations funding would need to kick in part of the debt payments.
“That five cents (I&S rate) is not enough to pay bond and principal, so general operating fund would have to make that up. It’s legal to do that,” Crawford told the board. “You can’t use I&S to fund maintenance and operations, but you can use maintenance and operations to pay for some of your bonded debt.”
Burns said the practice of the district paying from the maintenance and operations to supplement the district’s debt service was in place when he came on board in 2012. He also shared that the district will be debt-free in 2025. 
“The TRE generates an additional $4.1 million for the district. If you don’t pass the TRE on the maintenance and operations side, not only do you cut $3.8 million out of the budget, you’re putting $320,000 into the debt,” Burns said. 
As far as the impact on operations, Burns elaborated on what not passing the election would mean for the upcoming and subsequent years. 
‘We always have a wish list of things, not just facility upgrades and things, that would help us. The issue that you run into with the TRE that if it is not successful, you have to cut $3.8 million. That’s more than just capital improvements. That’s vehicle replacement, that’s transportation. And we’re just talking about this year,” Burns said. “But that $4.1 million additional will come every year hereafter.” 
Also, if the TRE does not pass, the revenue loss will continue year after year, said Burns, that the $3.8 million cut would become $6.8 million the following year, with another $3 million less the year after that. 
“Without the TRE, you hang yourself every year here on out.” 
He also said that the issue of not going to the voters to raise tax rates is a “fallacy.”
“In Texas public schools right now, I have to go to the voters to raise taxes, on the M&O or the I&S side. There’s no way for me to breach that hog and get it without their knowledge. It has to be voted on by the taxpayers.”
Another issue the district faces is that the 2018-2019 school year is the third and final “hold harmless” year for the district after losing the Heavy Impact Aid funding. The following year, instead of receiving as much as $9 million in Federal Impact Aid, the district looks to only receive about $500,000, tops. 
The board also held a closed session on Monday, which lasted a little more than two hours and involved discussion with the district’s legal counsel and deliberation regarding the termination of a “term contract employee.” The board emerged from the closed session to take no action, with board chair Joan Manning stating that the employee resigned from their position.

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