The latest news from Dripping Springs ISD
Week of September 27, 2021
TAX RATE FOR 2021-22 APPROVED
The annual tax rate was approved at the Sept. 27, 2021 Board of Trustees meeting, following extensive discussion, by a vote of 6-1. The adopted rate is $1.3103 ($0.9603 Maintenance and Operations/$0.35 Interest and Sinking) per $100 of certified property value. The Maintenance and Operations (M&O) portion covers district operating costs such as salaries and benefits, utility bills, student transportation, and supplies. The Interest and Sinking (I&S) rate generates revenue that is used to pay off bond indebtedness for facilities.
During Monday’s meeting, Dr. Amanda Brownson of TASBO (Texas Association of School Business Officials) provided a school finance update and explanation of how school district tax rates are structured. (To listen to Dr. Brownson’s presentation, go to the videostream recording starting at 1:08). She provided definitions of the Voter-Approval Tax Rate and the No New Revenue Tax Rate. Dr. Brownson explained that the Voter-Approval Tax Rate is comprised of: 1) Maximum Compressed Tax Rate (MCR) as provided by TEA; 2) enrichment pennies (golden pennies and copper pennies); and 3) current debt rate. In DSISD over the past four years, the MCR and the enrichment pennies both have dropped. Dr. Brownson explained that the No New Revenue Tax Rate is a calculated rate of what would produce no additional tax revenue; this amount considers only local tax revenue, not state aid or recapture. She explained the implications that would be associated with the No New Revenue Tax Rate, which would result in reducing local tax collections, reducing state aid, loss of Formula Transition Grant funding from the state, and reducing the overall budget. Dr. Brownson also clarified that the No New Revenue tax rate does not provide revenue for student enrollment growth.
The adopted rate represents a 2.29-cent decrease from the 2020-21 rate, due to a compression of the Maintenance and Operations tax rate that resulted from House Bill 3, which modified the statewide school funding formula/system.
Property tax bills are a product of the tax rate and the property value. If an individual’s property value increases at a higher percentage than the rate decreases, the actual bill will be higher even though the adopted rate is declining (with the exception of those 65 and older who have filed an exemption application and whose taxes are frozen).
Because of the way that public schools are funded, school districts that are classified as having revenue in excess of entitlement (under Chapter 48 of the Texas Education Code) do not receive the increased revenue associated with higher property values; state funding formulas are recalculated so that the district must send more money back to the state. For 2020-21, the district will send $5,630,603 back to the state in recapture. For 2021-22, the recapture payment is estimated to be nearly $7 million, which will represent an increase of approximately 24 percent.
This will mark the third consecutive year that DSISD is decreasing its tax rate. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the DSISD tax rate decreased more than 10 cents ($1.52 to $1.4183). Then, between 2019-20 and 2020-21, it dropped another 8.5 cents ($1.4183 to $1.3332). Combined with this year’s additional two-cent decrease, over a three-year period, DSISD’s property tax rate will have decreased by 20.97 cents, or 13.8 percent. However, during that same timeframe, property values in Dripping Springs have risen significantly.
Dripping Springs ISD is a fast-growth district, having doubled in size in the last 10 years. Current enrollment is 8,004, which represents an increase of 9.9 percent from the district’s official annual reporting date in October 2020.
Two District Leadership Positions Announced
The district is excited to announce that two new district leaders will be joining the Dripping Springs ISD leadership team in October. The Board of Trustees approved the hiring of the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, as well as the Executive Director of Communications.
Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations: Catherine Knepp
The district proudly welcomes Ms. Catherine Knepp as the new Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations. Ms. Knepp comes to DSISD from Moak, Casey and Associates, a highly regarded educational consulting firm. Ms. Knepp served on the financial services team for the firm and brings with her experience in supporting and advising school districts of all sizes across the state on a myriad of school finance matters. Knepp provides a high level of expertise in revenue estimation, staffing and financial data reviews, and legislative analysis, among other components of Texas school finance.
In this leadership position, Ms. Knepp will be the district's Chief Financial Officer, and will be responsible for budgeting, accounting, auditing, bonds, and debt service. The position also oversees several operational departments. As a multi-district financial consultant and a regular presenter on school finance, her skillset will be an excellent match for this position.
Prior to earning her master’s degree in Public Policy with a focus on school finance from Vanderbilt University, Ms. Knepp also served the educational field for six years as a secondary teacher at both Eanes ISD and Regents School of Austin. Her former teaching background provides a unique lens into the world of the classroom and the needs of teachers and students.
“Ms. Knepp’s experience working with multiple large districts statewide gives her great perspective on school finance, building budgets, and legislative impact," said Superintendent Dr. Holly Morris-Kuentz. "Her teaching years shaped and formed her passion for education and embedded in her a deep desire to make a difference in the lives of students, which was a huge component that led her to apply with DSISD. She looks forward to serving the students of our district in a direct and meaningful way."
Executive Director of Communications: Jennifer Edwards
The district also welcomes Jennifer Edwards as our incoming Executive Director of Communications. She brings a proven track record of strategic communications and experience communicating with internal and external stakeholders across many platforms. Ms. Edwards has more than 25 years of experience in communications and marketing, including the most recent 14 years leading communications at Black Box, a provider of IT infrastructure solutions. In addition to her vast background in marketing and communications positions, Ms. Edwards has been an active parent volunteer in Dripping Springs ISD, including two years as the president of the district’s PTA Council. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.
In this leadership position, Ms. Edwards will lead the district's communications office and will be responsible for promoting, developing, and fostering effective, two-way communication between the school district and its internal and external constituencies; creating awareness and building support of the school district’s mission, goals, and policies; and articulating programs, services, events, activities and academic achievements.
"Ms. Edwards' impressive leadership in volunteer parent positions within our district and her corporate communications experience, including communications strategy, branding, and stakeholder relations, made her our ideal candidate," continued Dr. Morris-Kuentz. "Her experience as both a communications leader and DSISD resident and parent make her an outstanding match for our district."
Both Ms. Knepp and Ms. Edwards are expected to begin their new roles with the district in mid-October. Ms. Knepp will replace interim assistant superintendent Larry Keiser in the Finance and Operations Department. Ms. Edwards will take over leadership of the Communications Department as Dale Whitaker retires from the district.
National Merit Semifinalists Named
Dripping Springs High School senior James Mihic has been named a National Merit Semifinalist in the 67th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Semifinalists represent less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, and were the highest-scoring students on the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
The son of Helen and John Mihic, James is a two-time state DECA finalist as part of the Sports and Entertainment Marketing Team. He was named an AP Scholar in November 2020 after scoring a 3 or higher on three or more AP exams. In 2021, James earned a certification in Entrepreneurship and Small Business through the high school CTE (Career and Technology Education) program. James also competed in cross country and track for the Tigers, and was a two-year member of the DSHS debate team. He has not yet decided on a major or where he will attend college.
To become a National Merit finalist, a student must have an outstanding high school academic record, be recommended by the school principal, write an essay, and submit SAT or ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier qualifying test performance. Finalists will be announced in February 2022.
DSHS HOMECOMING KING AND QUEEN
EDUCATION FOR ALL CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES NOTICE
A summary of the September 27 DSISD Board of Trustees meeting can be found at the link above.