The Driscoll Independent School District Board of Trustees approved the district’s 2019-20 budget and tax rate Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Cynthia Garcia presented the budget for the current school year with expenditures of about $4.096 million and close to $3.9 million in combined revenue from local, state and federal sources, for a deficit of just under $128,000.

Garcia said while she was presenting the board a deficit budget, the district has been “very diligent” about being conservative with the budget and “staying within our means.” 

“And you can see it based on our historical data on fund balance,” she said.

Garcia said Driscoll ISD typically has 100 percent collection rate on its taxes, which will add about $20,000 to the budget. She said the budget is also built on a conservative estimated average daily attendance of 275.

“Last year, I ended with 280 ADA, so if I run 280 again, which I’m already at enrollment where I was last year, then that goes from $2,840,000 to $2,890,000,” Garcia said.

“So right off the bat, just in local revenue and increased state funding due to increased number of students, we’ve already earned $70,000 in revenue,” she said.

Garcia said there were also “cushions” built into the budget.

“We always overbudget water, we always overbudget electricity and we always overbudget for oil and gas,” she said.

Board vice-president Johanna Schubert said that it has “driven me crazy for 15 years that they cushion so much.”

“You hold through and you do good with the budget, and that’s fine, but a budget, I don’t believe, should have that much cushion,” Schubert said.

“You want a true budget, where you can look at numbers and can compare to last year,” she added. “It’s hard to compare this in your head when you’re looking at these things and you always have to remember, ‘Oh, well, the reason there’s so much left is because of the cushion.”

Garcia said without those cushions, the district might not have a good audit or as much in the bank as they do.

“Call it a security blanket, call it whatever, but it’s worked,” she said. “And I don’t want to quite mess with something that’s worked.”

The board adopted the 2019-20 budget in a unanimous 7-0 vote.

The board also approved in a 7-0 vote the 2019-20 tax rate, which will drop the maintenance and operation (M&O) rate from $1.06 to $0.97 per $100 valuation and the interest and sinking (I&S) rate from $0.549463 to $0.45683.

The combined tax rate will be $1.42683, a nearly 18-cent decrease from the 2018-19 rate of $1.609463. A school district’s combined tax rate is comprised of separate rates for maintenance and operation (M&O), which is utilized in salaries, utility bills and general operations, and interest and sinking (I&S), which is for repayment of debt.

House Bill 3, passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in early June, overhauled education financing and is providing property tax relief to property owners through school district M&O tax rate compression in 2020 and 2021.

Annette Vasquez, business manager for Driscoll ISD, said because the district collected taxes in excess of about $86,500, they were able to lower the I&S rate as well this year. 

“Our bond payment is $559,450, and I don’t foresee any reason why we would not be able to make that payment,” Vasquez said.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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