Study: School taxes will go up without annexationConsultant Tom Sayre delivers a presentation to the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education on Nov. 5, 2014. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Decatur residents will pay more in school taxes and the school system will spend more money than it takes in if the city does not annex more properties.
That’s one of the more significant conclusions of an eye-popping study on student enrollment a consultant delivered to the school board on Wednesday.
Tom Sayre from the Sizemore Group consulting firm told school board members that the majority of Decatur’s enrollment growth will come from within the city borders. The consultant’s enrollment study predicts that Decatur’s school population will grow from its current enrollment of 4,336 students, the highest since 1970, to 7,398 students in a high-growth scenario without annexation.
Annexation will add an additional 747 students to the city’s borders. As the city’s school system grows, it will be hard-pressed to find room for its student population without expanding its borders. Decatur’s current annexation plan would add 1.6 square miles to the city’s limits. The consultant’s review focused only on what’s in the current plan.
CSD Finance Director Susan Hurst told School Board members that in a low growth scenario, meaning less development, Decatur would run a $4.7 million operating deficit the first year after annexation, but would begin to see revenues increase over expenses the next year. The tax rate would stay the same, 20.5 mills. Without annexation, CSD would see a smaller deficit, $2 million, that would eventually taper off by year 20 20. But the tax rate would likely increase to 21.5 mills by Fiscal Year 2019.
The numbers for a high-growth scenario are more dramatic.
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Projections don’t change much for the school system under a high growth scenario if the city decides to annex. If the city doesn’t annex, Decatur could see its tax rate increase to 21.5 mills by 2018 and run operating deficits through 2020.
Hurst said none of her figures assume other costs like pay raises for teachers. Adding a 3 percent pay raise for teachers each year made the numbers look worse than what Hurst presented to the School Board on Wednesday.
“I can tell you with the high numbers without annexation it got ugly,” Hurst said.
Sayre said there aren’t enough classrooms or buildings in the city to hold 8,145 students, a number than includes annexation.
“There is no reconfiguration of the existing schools by any grade level that will possibly fit 8,145 students into a 3,800 capacity,” he said.
This is a copy of the presentation handed out at Wednesday’s School Board meeting. What do you think?