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Orangefield ISD calls for tax ratification election

ORANGEFIELD — The Board of Trustees is seeking community input this Thursday at it prepares for a special election in October.

The Board of Trustees of the Orangefield Independent School District is calling for a tax ratification election on Saturday, Oct. 3. In order to make sure the community is well-informed on the reasoning behind the election, the Trustees have called for a community meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 13, inside the cafeteria at Orangefield Elementary 10288 FM in Orangefield.

According to the Texas Association of School Boards, a district that adopts a tax rate above its rollback tax rate must, in most circumstances, hold an election for the voters to ratify the higher rate. If a majority of the votes cast favor the proposition, the tax rate for the current year is the rate adopted by the board. If the proposition is not approved, then the board may not adopt a tax rate for the current year that exceeds the rollback rate.

The Orangefield ISD current tax rate is $1.17, which is the lowest among the five school districts in Orange County. The district also offers a 20 percent homestead exemption, which only one other district in Orange County does as well.

The Trustees have called for a 13-cent increase to the district’s maintenance and operation fund, which is currently at $1.04. Along with the Interest and Sinking rate, the total tax rate if $1.17. If voters approve the 13-cent increase, the new rate would become $1.30.

According to Dr. Stephen Patterson, superintendent of the Orangefield Independent School District, the Trustees opted to request a tax rate increase from the voters instead of making cuts in district operations.

“Orangefield ISD is at the point where it may not be able to continue offering certain programs in the future,” Patterson said. “Orangefield ISD taxes at the lowest rate of the five Orange County schools, and the district gives its taxpayers a 20 percent homestead exemption. If voters approve the tax increase, it will generate nearly $950,000 in additional revenue for the district.”

If approved by voters, the 13-cent increase would mean an increase in property taxes for residents of Orangefield ISD. The median home value of a residence in Orangefield, a figure generated by the Orange County appraisal district, is approximately $117,000, which means half of the residences are worth less than $117,000 and the other half are worth more than $117,000.

According to information provided by Orangefield ISD, which is also available on the district’s website, taxpayers would see an average monthly increase of $8.52. Current school taxes per year, based on the above median value, is $919.62 or $76.84 per month.

The Trustees have already laid out plans for the funding, if approved by voters, to ensure students of Orangefield ISD are able to receive a wide-variety of educational opportunities.

These include vocational course offerings for students to earn licenses and certifications in cosmetology, welding, criminal justice, nursing and more, as well as offering more courses in technology related fields and dedicating funds to classroom infrastructure, computers, teacher supplies and textbooks.

Facilities are in need of addressing as well, according to the letter sent to district residents. Additional funding generated by through the TRE, if approved by voters would help make upkeep and maintenance a priority. Also, transportation needs could be met, the district could update its fleet of buses quicker than at its current pace of purchasing one new school bus per year at $92,000. The district has 25 routes, which means some buses are over 20 years old.

In 2005, Orangefield ISD residents had a tax rate of $1.61 per $100 valuation, which is 44-cents more than the current tax rate the district has had for the past 9 years. A mandatory reduction due to state regulations was the source of the considerable decrease in 2006, but, with inflation and the devastating state cutbacks in education in 2009, the Trustees have decided it was time to act.

Patterson said he knows citizens will have concerns and questions about the tax ratification election, which is the reasoning behind the community meeting on Thursday.

“One question we have been getting a lot pertains to our residents who are over the age of 65,” Patterson explained. “Anyone over the age of 65, who has filled out the proper paperwork with the (Orange County) appraisal district, will not be impacted by this election. Their taxes are frozen.”

Patterson said those citizens who cannot attend the community meeting this Thursday evening should not panic, because he plans on holding weekly meetings until election time to address concerns and answer questions.

Meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m., every Tuesday, starting Aug. 25 through Sept. 29, at the Orangefield Elementary cafeteria.

Early voting will be from Wednesday, Sept. 16 through Tuesday, Sept. 29 in the Orangefield ISD Tax Ratification Election. Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 3.

For more information related on the Trustees request for the tax ratification election, visit the school district website at www.orangef