Lee College is talking about decreasing its tax rate at least by a penny, perhaps more.
During a budget workshop, the college board went over a proposed $66.8 million budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, with much of the discussion focused on ways of reducing its current tax rate of 25 cents per $100 of valuation.
“We are going to do all we can to decrease the rate,” said Regent Mark Hall. “We know what it looks like when you take a penny off, but we have other variables in there, and we are also looking at an adjustment of out-of-district tuition.”
Hall said a bit of an increase for out-of-district would be considered to help with the decrease.
Hall added there is no fee increase proposed in the budget.
One reason Hall said the board is considering a tax rate reduction has to do with the values of homes going up in the area.
According to the Harris County Appraisal District, the market value for homes in Baytown went from $2,053, 280,699 in 2017 to $2,415,674,517 in 2019.
Regent Gilbert Santana said the projected budget numbers are based on forecasted revenue strains. He added Harris County Appraisal District values have yet to be firmed up.
“The one thing any taxing entity tries to do is look at the tax rate,” Santana said. “Our struggle the last couple of years was that we were not as financially strong as we thought. We had good revenue strains and good sufficient expense budgets to provide services but were lacking in cash reserves we should have as an institution. We have been building those up in the last couple of years. And the numbers were looking favorable for end of the year unrestricted cash, which is good.”
Santana said the end of year total restricted cash is $11.6 million, according to what was reported on during the meeting by Annette Ferguson, the college’s vice president of finance and administration. The college anticipates having that much Sept. 1 with a forecasted need of $6.5 million needed to see them through the fall until they begin to receive funds from taxes.
Santana feels the college is at a place where they can effectively reduce the rate without disrupting anything else.
Ferguson said the $66.8 million proposed figure should come down before the board is supposed to vote to adopt it Aug. 29. Ferguson said there is a surplus of $3.6 million, which is about 5.4 percent at this time.
“We have a budgeted surplus of $2.3 million, and then there was a surplus of $1.3 million,” she said.
Ferguson said she expected another workshop Aug. 22.
with potential scenarios on what things will look like at different reductions.
“We are getting final numbers from the Harris County tax office hopefully this week, and that will help us with those projections,” Ferguson said.