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Early voting in Spring Hill ISD tax election off to slow start

By Richard Yeakley
Sept. 4, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Early voting in Spring Hill school district's tax ratification election started slowly Tuesday as residents decide whether to increase property taxes more than eight cents on the dollar.

If the answer is "no," school board trustees have said they will most likely eliminate residents' 15 percent homestead exemption.

By noon on the first day of voting, 20 people had come to the high school foyer to weigh in.

Early voting will run through Tuesday, and election day is Sept. 15.

Bob Henry and his wife, Jodi, were the 19th and 20th people to cast votes Tuesday.

The Henrys said they are proud they supported the district by voting for the property tax increase.

"I have six grandkids in the school. If it's what is needed to keep the school going, that's what we will do," Henry said.

The election proposes to increase the property tax rate 13 cents, from $1.54 per $100 valuation to $1.67. It would be an increase of 9 percent.

If approved, the annual taxes on a home valued at $152,000, the district average, would increase about $200 annually from $2,347 per year to $2,546 per year.

Wes Jones, superintendent of Spring Hill ISD, was unavailable for comment Tuesday; however, in a previous interview with the News Journal, Jones said the school district has been hurt by state budget cuts and the election will give residents the opportunity to positively shape the district's future.

The small school district, with just fewer than 2,000 students, lost $1.3 million in state funding in 2011, just a few years after voters had agreed to spend $41.8 million on district improvements.

Jones said the cuts have put the district in a rough place.

"We've reduced supplies and cut funding for field trips, staff development and some positions," Jones said.

"The (election) gives taxpayers an opportunity to decide how they want the district to be funded."

The increase would be used to fund a budget of $16.727 million approved Aug. 20 by Spring Hill ISD trustees for the 2012-13 school year.

School officials said if the tax increase is approved, the school would receive $85 in state aid for every $100 it collects from the increase. This would be a piece of $963,604 additional funding each year.

If the tax increase isn't passed, Jones said the school district will have to find another way to support the budget.

One option being considered for increasing revenue is eliminating the optional 15 percent homestead exemption. This could be done by a board vote; it would not require an election.

Early voting will be each day at a different Spring Hill ISD campus throughout the week from 7:35 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., with today's early voting in the auditorium foyer.

The taxes on homesteads of district residents who are older than 65 or disabled would not increase.



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