Palestine residents will pay less in school district taxes next year, thanks to a recent decision by the district’s board of trustees, but the district is not putting new construction projects on hold. With careful financial planning and skilled labor from the district's operations department, the district is steadily building new facilities without raising taxes.
Taxpayers will save roughly $13 per $100,000 property valuation in school district taxes in 2021. The 2021 tax rate will fall to $1.4047, down 12.5 cents from 2019 and 2020, when the rate was $1.530.
That means the owner of a $100,000 home or business will pay roughly $1,405 in school district property taxes in 2021, instead of the previous $1,530.
Meanwhile, the district continues to expand its student activity spaces at Palestine High School with new construction projects. The first project includes new indoor practice facilities between Wildcat Stadium and the baseball field.
The second is a 33,000 square-foot building between the student parking lot and Ben Milam Road that will house a welding shop for the school’s building trades program, lockers and a studio for the drill team, and locker rooms and a concession stand for the tennis team. The crew is also building a new practice field for the band, drill team, and cheer team across the street.
Larissa Loveless, PISD's director of public relations, said the district's own construction workers and some local contractors are building the new projects, which shows wise use of tax money.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve,” Loveless said.
School tax rates have dropped steadily over the past five years, declining by 16 cents since 2015, partly due to positive taxpayer behaviors. David Atkeisson, the district’s chief financial officer, said Palestine’s property owners pay their taxes at a rate of 98% or higher.
Atkeisson told the Herald-Press that many school districts experience budget shortfalls due to high delinquency rates, but Palestine Independent School District is an exception.
“The taxpayers of Palestine ISD support the district better than any other district I’ve worked in,” said Atkeisson, who has worked in school district finance for 15 years.
In 2018, the School Board voted to decrease taxes by 1.8 cents per $100 valuation, for a rate of $1.530 instead of $1.548, the rate for the previous two years.
In 2016, the rate also fell by 1.8 cents, from $1.566 to $1.548. The reduction became possible after the board approved refinancing of payments on a $66 million bond passed in 2009. Meanwhile, the state's share of the district's debt payments increased.
Loveless said the new projects are just a few of many built by PISD employees, even as the district continues to reduce taxes. Improvements at Wildcat Stadium, renovation of the district’s new employee day care, replacement of the practice weight room, and improvements at the softball, baseball, and agriculture fields, are some projects completed with available maintenance and operation funds.