A Look At Mansfield ISD Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE)
A penny can still go a long way. Just ask the Mansfield Independent School District.
On the Nov. 2 ballot – and, of course, early voting through Oct. 29 is an option for a Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE) — or Penny Swap. If approved, it would restructure the MISD tax rate, swapping 13 pennies from the Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate to the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rate.
In Texas, school district budgets are funded by two different tax rates. The first is a maintenance and operations rate, which essentially funds all operating expenses, including instruction, salaries, maintaining school buildings, student programs and schools of choice.
The second is an interest and sinking rate, which funds bond debt.
MISD’s Goal Is To Maximize State Funding
Comparing to our personal finances, we can use the money we budget for debt or expenses however we wish. For example, if the mortgage payment was reduced, your additional money could be used for home improvements. Others might use the extra funds to save for your child’s college. In school finance, however, M&O funds can be used for anything to help the school district operate and sustain programs, but the I&S funds can only be used for debt repayment and cannot supplement district operations or salaries.
MISD officials project this would allow the district to maximize state funding. It would bring approximately $24.7 million in additional revenue to the district each year.
If passed, the total MISD tax rate would remain at $1.4183, the same total rate as prior to the Penny Swap election. The total rate of $1.4183 with voter approval is approximately 3 cents less than the overall tax rate of $1.4464 in the 2020-21 school year.
The idea was first proposed at the Aug. 10 MISD School Board meeting. It has since been circled around the public, with several public meetings.
School districts are required to undergo an efficiency audit prior to holding a Penny Swap.
However, when a disaster – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – is declared by the governor, that requirement is waived.
Mansfield ISD Has An A Rating With The State
Still, the MISD had a third-party audit that found the district received and spent fewer dollars per student than its peer districts. Peer districts are based on factors such as size, tax rate and property wealth. The audit also determined that the district spent less on administrative costs than its comparable districts.
In other words, Mansfield Superintendent Dr. Cantu stressed, the district has been getting less and spending less, but doing more. The district has maintained an A rating with the state, while earning many state and national awards for fiscal responsibility.
Some of the awards Mansfield ISD consistently receives for excellent fiscal responsibility and transparency are the nationally recognized Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and Meritorious Budget Award. At the state level, the district has received a Superior rating in the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) for 19 consecutive years.
“That’s why the Mansfield ISD school board called for the Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election, or Penny Swap, on Nov. 2,” Cantu said. “We want to be able to maintain our great quality instruction and retain our quality teachers through the Penny Swap, which would generate more revenue to our educational system without increasing the overall tax rate.”
Also, officials cite with the opening of three new schools in August of 2021, Mansfield ISD has enough schools to accommodate its current student enrollment. Thus, the district won’t need to construct a new building for several years.
For more on the MISD Penny Swap proposal, visit the Mansfield ISD website.