Burns

Joe Burns, superintendent of the Copperas Cove Independent School District, touched upon how vital the district's tax ratification election Saturday will be for the school welfare.

COPPERAS COVE — Joe Burns, superintendent of the Copperas Cove Independent School District, described many corner-cutting measures taken the past several years in an effort to save money. Over the past five years, officials say various class curriculums have been modified, pay raises and new hires have been limited, among other measures.

Burns said those measures will dramatically increase if the district’s tax ratification election fails Saturday, warning of larger class sizes, a reduction in extracurricular programming and stricter travel stipulations for sports teams.

“We’re at the point where we need to ask the public for approval,” the superintendent said of a proposed tax swap, which could reportedly net millions in savings. “If the measure does not pass, we’re going to be very aggressive in cost-saving measures.”

There were 665 votes tallied between Aug. 22 and Sept. 4 in early voting for the election, which proposes movement of existing tax dollars from the district’s Interest & Sinking fund to the operations side of the budget.

It would not increase the existing property tax rate of $1.22 per $100 of taxable value for Cove residents. If passed, the movement of the funds could generate an estimated savings of $4.1 million for the school district, according to CCISD.

Those savings will help offset a steep decrease in federal Impact Aid. Impact Aid assists school districts that have lost property tax revenue from the presence of tax-exempt federal property, such as Fort Hood, and may also be given for increased expenditures from the enrollment of federally connected children.

Impact Aid has tapered since the 2011-2012 school year, when the percentage of military-connected students was at its peak.

Six years ago, nearly 49 percent of the student body was connected to the military. That population is now 29.4 percent.

“Fort Hood isn’t getting any larger, but we’re still seeing an increase in students,” Burns said.

CCISD projects roughly $385,508 in Impact Aid for the next school year. This rate has steadily decreased from year to year, down from an earned $12.4 million in 2016-17 to a projected $9.4 million in 2017-18, then decreasing to $7.5 million this school year, according to school officials.

The steep drop-off from the current school year to the next is due to what Burns said is called a “hold harmless” program implemented by the federal government, meaning reductions in Impact Aid will come in intervals of three years rather than all at once.

CCISD’s hold harmless period expires next year.

“Pass or fail, we are still going to be the best quality district around. Our responsibility won’t go away,” Burns said. “I encourage people to know the facts first, and exercise their right to vote.”

Election Day voting will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Coryell County Justice Center, 201 First St., Copperas Cove.

Visit www.ccisd.com/tre for more information.

mpayne@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7553

Herald staff writer

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