Last year the Southgate Independent School Board approved enforcing a new recallable nickel tax to increase their bonding capacity for facility updates.
However, the tax did not go into effect last tax cycle. Instead, the school board voted to push it back to Fiscal Year 2023-2024, which will go into effect this year. The city typically sends out yearly tax bills in the fall.
Southgate Independent School Superintendent Greg Duty said that because residents had already received their yearly tax bills when the recallable nickel was passed last year, the school board chose to push the tax back to avoid confusion.
The Dec. 8 school board meeting minutes reflect this: “Being cognizant that sending a supplemental tax bill to the citizens of Southgate at this time would be problematic and raise confusion on the part of taxpayers.”
So what exactly is a recallable nickel tax?
The tax is a school funding mechanism that gets matched by the state; however, money from the recallable nickel tax can only go toward school facility needs.
The board set the new (recallable nickel) tax of .057 cents per $100, or $57 for every $100,000 in property evaluation, to be eligible for “urgent need” money from the state. That would increase their bonding capacity from $800,000 to $2.1 million.
The tax will be year over year, in addition to the district’s annual tax.
The board voted to pass the recallable nickel at its annual tax rate hearing, which took place on Sept. 8, 2022.
The board did lower the school tax rate from the 2021-2022 rate of 118.9 to 102.5 for 2023-2024; however, this reduced rate does not include the recallable nickel. The school tax rate is based on “real property,” which are things like the assessment on a house.
The school receives tax assessment numbers from the state, typically around the end of July, and they determine the rate from there.
“The board voted to pass the recallable nickel, and then what you do is you have 45 days, you have to follow the statute of advertising and follow the law, and then, after 45 days, if there are no objections to it and petitions, then that recallable nickel passes,” Duty said.
Duty said no residents had addressed the board with any concerns regarding the recallable nickel.
The Southgate Independent School District teaches kindergarten through eighth grade and has 211 students enrolled.
Some of the school’s buildings date back to 1903 and 1930. They currently have a mobile classroom on site, which Duty said at a November city council meeting that the community wants to be removed. He told the council at the meeting that they would like to use funds for an elevator or lift to make the building more accessible. The renovation plans also included the school’s restrooms, cafeteria, and gym.
Duty said they must follow their district facility plan, a four-year plan for any proposed renovations.
“They’re older buildings, and that does require upkeep,” Duty said. “We just did an emergency water restoration project over the summer where we had the 1930 building (auditorium), we had water coming through, and we had to work with the architect. I think the final price tag was close to $58,000, and that’s just a portion of it. We still have more work to do.”
Those interested in attending Southgate Independent School Board meetings can find more information on their website.