HCISD lowers tax rate

HARLINGEN — The Harlingen school board last night approved a resolution to cut property taxes.

The reduction will cut taxes by more than 10 cents per $100 of property value. More specifically, the school district’s property tax rate will be reduced from $1.31 cents to $1.21.

The tax cut is in response to the state legislature’s approval of House Bill 3 last session, said Julio Cavazos, chief financial officer for the district.

“It requires school districts to reduce their maintenance and operations tax rate in order to achieve property tax relief,” Cavazos said. “The state will subsidize the lost property tax revenues with state dollars.”

This move reduces the tax rate a little lower than its previous level before voters approved a tax increase. That vote, the Tax Ratification Election, was passed in September 2015. It generated about $5.8 million in state funds and another $4.2 million in local funds, bringing the annual total to $10 million.

Those extra funds served their purpose well, allowing numerous upgrades and repairs to facilities throughout the district. They paid for needed school improvements and upgrades to include new district-wide security systems, surveillance cameras in elementary schools, fencing and updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Upon first learning of the tax reduction, Meizie Salinas was concerned about the loss of funds for the school district.

“That’s a tough one because I think so much of the children,” she said, a tone of concern in her voice. However, upon learning the state would fill in the gap left by the tax reduction, she was pleased.

“I’m so happy to hear that,” she said. “OK, that will shed a different opinion then. The tax reduction will help, really, because salaries don’t reflect tax increases, Everybody’s on a fixed income. So now that I know that the school is not going to suffer, I like the proposal.”

In recent months, heated discussions have been in play regarding the city’s proposed tax increases. The City Commission will vote on the increase Sept. 18.

Harlingen school board President Nolan Perez congratulated the board for its decision.

“The Harlingen CISD Board of Trustees continues to bear in mind fiscal responsibility, while continuously making decisions that benefit our students,” Perez said. “Our healthy budget has allowed us to reduce our tax rate to about 1.22 cents, which is lower than the tax rate we set before voters approved the TRE.”

The move ensures fiscal responsibility and financial transparency for taxpayers, said Harlingen Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos.

“Thanks to the incredible support of our community, we have been able to transform our district and create choices and opportunities for students to set them on a path for global achievement,” Cavazos said. “Furthermore, I want to thank our business office and Chief Financial Officer Julio Cavazos for their continuous commitment to financial excellence at HCISD.”

Property owners within the Harlingen school district will see the reduced tax rate on their next tax bill.