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Carthage ISD plans to decrease its total tax rate for the 2020-21 school year.

Carthage ISD is planning to decrease its total tax rate by a hair and give all employees a 2 percent raise, on average, in next year's budget.

Right now the district is anticipating a total tax rate of $1.1964 — $0.9664 on the maintenance and operations side of the budget and $0.23 for the interest and sinking side of the budget. That's slightly down from the total tax rate of $1.21 from the 2019-20 school year.

"So we've still got some things shifting around because of all of the extraordinary items we had last year, but we think that this year we're going to be able to come in at a zero balance, to where we may not add to fund balance but we hope not to take away from that either," Business Manager Kathy Worley said.

Carthage ISD officials got a preliminary look at next year's budget and tax rate at the Monday school board meeting. Trustees will hold a budget workshop in July and will adopt their final budget and tax rate in August.

Worley noted the district has received preliminary property valuations and that they're comparable to preliminary values from last year. Final valuations aren't expected until July 25, though, and that will determine the proposed tax rate and budget.

Additionally, the Texas Legislature compressed property tax rates last year, Worley noted, making the district go from $1.04 on its maintenance and operations tax rate to 97 cents. This year's tax compressed tax rate is at $0.9164, and Worley said the district would be asking for an additional five cents — the maximum allowed — to maintain a status quo budget.

Worley said they'd also be swapping a cent from the interest and sinking side of the tax rate to the maintenance side.

Worley said the district is using about $500,000 they've saved through attrition to fund a 2 percent average salary increase — about $1,000 for teachers, $500 for paraprofessionals and $250 for part-time bus drivers.

"We're hoping that all of that pans out if the numbers come in from the appraisal district like we're anticipating," Worley said. "We're anticipating another break-even budget where our revenues equal our expenses just like we did this year."

Worley said the district is also waiting to hear about an appeal to the state over whether it can use state values or local values — local values mean they'd recoup some recapture money. She noted the district will be refunding money to DCP Midstream this year and next year as well.

"One of the things we are striving for is we're striving to provide a high-quality instruction for our children, the best resources that we can provide our children, but we're putting in some processes in place to make sure that we're being conscientious with the funds that we have, but we're also trying to take care of our employees' salaries, to continue to be the most competitive in paying our teachers in the area," Superintendent John Wink said. "Kathy and Donna (Porter) have been really working hard to evaluate where we can find opportunities to optimize our staff, and I think we're moving in the right direction.

Reporter

Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.