Texas Border Business
PHARR – The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District Board of Trustees took action recently to lower the tri-city school district’s tax rate for the third consecutive year. During a regularly called school board meeting held August 26, 2019, the Board adopted the district’s budget and approved a tax rate of 1.2725, a reduction of almost 11 cents (10.67).
In 2017, the Board committed to working on steadily decreasing the tax rate whenever possible. The Board acted that year to lower the rate by one penny and followed that with another one cent reduction in 2018. The combined actions over the last three years, has seen a reduction of almost thirteen cents (12.67), one of the largest tax reductions by any governmental entity in Hidalgo County.
PSJA’s tax rate had been among the higher levies in the county due to voter approval of several large bond issues from 2006 through 2010.
“I want to thank our citizens for their positive response to the needs of our district as they voted in favor of a number of bond elections, agreeing to tax themselves at a higher rate so that we could address the tremendous need we had for educational facilities,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Daniel King. “Thanks to the support from our taxpayers, we have been able to almost completely rebuild this district with more than $500 million in improvements over the past 12 years. PSJA has grown non-stop during its 100-year history, and for the first time we have caught up with that growth and fulfilled our promise to have modern facilities at every campus for all students.”
Dr. King continued, “We are in better shape in regard to facilities than almost any district around, and our Board is committed to maintaining all our buildings in top shape. We have also put in plan a program of addressing all facility needs by budgeting for them annually within the operations budget. PSJA should not need to turn to the citizens for a bond issue for at least the next decade or two. Now our Board is committed to thanking our taxpayers and returning the favor by lowering the tax rate whenever this can be done without impacting the quality of our programs, services, and facilities.”
Prior to the Board’s action in 2017, only one school district in Hidalgo County had a higher tax rate than PSJA ISD. Today, only 6 of the 15 school districts in the county have a lower rate and most of those 6 districts have not been able to pass bond proposals, which keeps their respective tax rates lower. Eight of the 15 districts have higher tax rates than PSJA ISD, yet the facilities in those districts are not as modern and well equipped as PSJA ISD’s facilities.
The Board plans to strategically continue to address property taxes.
According to Dr. King, the Board just approved a refunding of eligible bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates available at this time.
“We believe that this will allow another small reduction in the tax rate in addition to any automatic reduction that will come from Texas legislative action that drives tax rate down as property values rise,” said Dr. King.
PSJA School Board President Jesse Zambrano praised Dr. King and the Administration for a job well done.
“As a Board, we have strategically reduced the tax rate for three years in a row and we plan to continue to do so in years to come,” said Zambrano. “One penny every year over a number of years will add up to a substantial savings and reduction in property taxes for our constituents and taxpayers. While other governmental bodies are increasing tax rates, PSJA ISD is significantly reducing its tax rate. More importantly, we were able to do this while balancing the budget and maintaining the excellent educational programs that will continue to benefit our students for many years to come.”
The board also prioritized raises for all employees. With teacher, librarian, counselor and nurses raises ranging from $3,000 up to $4,500 based on years of experience, a 3% from midpoint raise for all other professionals and exempt employees and a 6% from midpoint raise for hourly employees.
According to Dr. King, the raises, which will take into effect during this month’s paycheck, are by far the biggest increase in compensation in memory.
In addition to this increase, the starting pay for teachers has also increased to $51,250, setting PSJA ISD among the top paying school districts in the area, with starting pay for hourly employees at $12.00.