Millsap ISD Superintendent Jerry Lee Hunkapiller says Saturday's tax ratification election isn't just any election.

“This is probably the most important election in the history of Millsap ISD,” he said.

Local interest in the TRE – the district's second attempt to gain voter approval to raise the tax rate 13 cents per $100 property valuation to help general maintenance and operations costs – is apparently high. Early voting, which ended Tuesday, attracted 255 voters casting ballots.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the MISD administration building media room, located at 305 Pine St.

If the TRE passes, the district's total tax rate will be $1.665 per $100 taxable value. If it fails, the MISD tax rate drops to $1.535 per $100 taxable value.

For the 2010-11 budget the school board has called for a M&O budget based on a $1.17 tax rate per $100 taxable property value. Millsap's interest and sinking (debt service) tax rate is 49.5 cents per $100 valuation.

Hunkapiller said the district projects that the proposed 13-cent per $100 taxable property value tax hike would generate $517,000, with about 65 percent to 70 percent coming from the state and the rest coming from local taxes.

“Community members need to see the tax increase as an investment into the community,” said MISD Board President Dene Herbel. “This has really been positive. The people realize that this is important for our community and school district.”

Area districts like Millsap, Santo and Strawn ISDs take in some of the state's lowest revenues, which were set by House Bill 1 beginning with the 2006-07 school year. Recent legislative attempts to contribute to districts have not helped enough, according to area school officials.

Millsap's first TRE attempt last year failed by about 67 votes, resulting in about 56 percent of the voters opposed to the measure.

“People seem to understand the importance of funding our school because of our situation with the state and the state not funding our school with the equity system,” Herbel added. “I'm really impressed so many people turned out to vote early. The TRE is imperative to our school district because of the loss of staff last year. We lost 12 positions and for us to cut any more staff, we're going to become inefficient educators.”

Herbel said he hopes the district will be able to add staff back on the payroll, but said it will be up to the principals and superintendent.

“Fewer students per teacher, [translates into] making teachers more efficient,” he added. “If we're able to hire those teachers and aides back, we'll have more teacher time per student.”

Hunkapiller said he will not know the outlook on refilling lost positions until March, when they plan the next year's budget.

“We will go over those plans in March [and] will look at where the legislators are,” said Hunkapiller. “We need to be careful because we don't know about the $18 billion [state] deficit. We are not sure what they will know or will be ale to to.

Herbel, who pays taxes on houses, land and his veterinary business, stated, “From my viewpoint we see this increased tax as an investment in the future of the community.”

Staff writer Libby Cluett can be reached at (940) 325-4465, ext. 3422, or lcluett@mineralwellsindex.com.

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