Seminole Residents "Blindsided" by Tax Hike

Seminole Residents "Blindsided" by Tax Hike

SEMINOLE, TX (KWES) - Dozens of Seminole residents attended a regularly scheduled school board meeting Monday night to voice concerns about a recent tax hike.

The Seminole Independent School District's Board of Trustees adopted the tax rate for 2015 during a previous board meeting on September 21.

The total tax rate, determined by the district's maintenance and operations (M&S) tax rate of $1.04 and the interest and sinking (I&S) tax rate $0.26, is now $1.30.

"During the last several months, the Board of Trustees received testimony from several experts, as well as our state senator Kel Seliger, on state funding," board president Ben Royston explained. "These experts agreed that remaining at the [current] $0.74 M&O tax rate would continue to penalize the district for the next ten plus years."

Public budget workshops were held as early as March 30, he said, and a notice to discuss the proposed tax rate was published in a local newspaper on June 3.

However, taxpayers at Monday night's board meeting said they felt "blindsided" by the tax hike and "edged out" of the decision-making process.

"Everybody just woke up one day with a double tax bill and no one even knows where it came from," one resident told administrators.

He said he had not been aware of the proposed tax rate until it was too late to speak up, and questioned why Seminole ISD board members had not directly informed residents by sending letters or posting public notices.

A woman who described herself as a "busy single mother balancing kids and work" said she also did not feel included in the budget decisions.

"Many of us are too busy to watch the news or read the paper every day," she told administrators. "We're too busy trying to put food on the table the way things are... and now it's getting even worse."

Other residents voiced complaints about spending, in addition to the new tax rate, and called for more taxpayer dollars to go toward student security.

"The district's budget is $61 million and only $475 is [designated for] security?" one father asked the board. "I do not feel comfortable sending my children to this school in Gaines County."

Board president Ben Royston thanked residents for sharing their concerns and said administrators look forward to making future decisions that "can work for all of us."