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EPISD board to consider holding ‘penny swap’ election

The El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees will consider approving a “penny swap” election to overcome money lost due to declining enrollment.

The possibility of holding a tax ratification election was discussed in a special meeting Monday.

“This would not impact the taxpayers with another increase,” EPISD spokeswoman Melissa Martinez said. “These funds would go into the general fund that affects the overall budget, for just the general operations of the budget.”

The district’s current tax rate is $1.31 per $100 property valuation. The Maintenance and Operation (M&O) funds get $1.07. The Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate, which is used to pay off debt, is $.24.

If the board were to approve a “penny swap” election, voters would then decide if the district could move a portion of the I&S funds over to the M&S funds. The district could move up to 10 cents, which according to district documents, would free up close to $7.5 million.

“Our tax rate is already going to increase slightly every year because of the bond,” Martinez said. “Because of that, we have the opportunity to swap these pennies without an additional increase to the voters.”

District documents state administrators expect a decline in enrollment of approximately 1,046 students. That means a loss of close to $7.7 million in state funds.

“I don’t know that the community will go for it, even though it would not mean a tax increase,” president of the El Paso Teachers Association Norma De La Rosa said. “They’ve already been hit with a tax increase because of the bond. This may be a very difficult sell for the district at this point.”

It’s not clear when the board will vote on this issue.

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