Summary of Board Meeting

by Coy Holcombe.  

Last night, the EISD Board of Trustees held their regular monthly meeting in the High School Library. A summary of meeting is below:

  • Viewed video of the cheerleading camp attended by our varsity cheerleaders. Sandy Sowers, cheerleading sponsor, thanked the Board for their support. Several cheerleaders were also in attendance.
  • Reviewed and approved minutes from June Board meeting.
  • Heard, reviewed, and approved the financial reports from June.
  • Heard reports on several different subjects (please see yesterday’s posting for all the topics).
  • Approved the Student Code of Conduct for the 09-10 school year. The Board reviewed the Student Handbook for the 09-10 school year.
  • Approved the purchase of 600 netbook computers for the 09-10 school year.
  • Approved the addition of an inclusion teacher position. This position will be paid for out of special education stimulus funds.
  • Approved the alternative education program as presented, the addition of an aide position for this program, and the purchase of 15 licenses for Educate 2020 software to be used in the alternative education program and the disciplinary alternative education program.
  • Approve revisions to the  EIC(Local) policy.
  • Approved revisions to the EIF(Local) policy.
  • Approved tax refund.
  • Approved the bid submitted by Pro Tech Track and Tennis of Tyler to resurface the track.
  • Approved the purchase of Springboard math materials.
  • Approve the proposal from Kirby Restaurant Supply for 2 washers and one dryer in the new competition gym.
  • Approved the bid submitted by EasTexas Agency of Athens and Trident Insurance for property, liability and vehicle insurance for the 09-10 school year.
  • Accepted the resignations of the following employees: Christine Grasser, Shelley Blankenship, Patricia Fields, David Beverly, and Debbie Ramoz.
  • Employed the following personnel: Ray Sawyer, Jim Taylor, Haley Lane, Kenneth Carpenter, Donna Chiles, Robyn Culp, Mark Farrell, Lindsey Spivey, & Aimee Johnson.
  • Adjourned the meeting at 10:42 PM.

2009 Certified Tax Roll – Henderson County

by Coy Holcombe.  

We received information from Henderson County on our 2009 Certified Tax Roll. The table below summarizes this information:

  Appraised Value Taxable Value
HCAD $681,288,410 $467,875,518
TYP $35,145,920 $35,145,920
Total $716,434,330 $503,021,438

Frozen Tax Ceiling = $416,337

Frozen Value = $64,267,756

The Frozen Tax Ceiling is the total amount of frozen taxes in Henderson County. If we collected 100% of our frozen taxes in Henderson County, this is the amount we would collect. TYP is a company that specializes in appraising oil, gas, and minerals.

At this time, we have not received our certified values from Van Zandt County.

 

Netbooks Evaluated, Deployment Impending – At Last!

by Rusty Meyners.  

Long overdue is not only an update but moreover a final and conclusive chapter to Eustace ISD’s long-running netbook evaluation and this blogging thereof. The last update saw us almost certainly planning to purchase Acer Aspire One netbooks for all of our high school students as well as several classroom sets of 25 for rolling labs at the other campuses; but since then, our focus has seen an quick shift to the Dell Mini 10 and mere weeks later an even more abrupt switch to the Asus eeePC 1005HA.

Dell got our attention with a new low base price that had to be directly aimed at Acer, who of course had to promptly lower their prices as well but too late to prevent a seemingly permanent change in our direction. A firm commitment to Dell eventually got them to get serious about our negotiations but a late unsolicited presentation from Asus that included an eval unit and competitive bid could not conscientiously be ignored. Attempts to have Dell make adjustments to remain competitive with Asus specs went from bad to contemptible, with our sentimentally favored home-state computer giant not just dropping the ball but actually seeming to "intentionally ground" it in "poor sport" pique over the challenge.

When time came for our school board to approve a purchase of 600 units for deployment, the eeePC 1005HA was the clear choice not only from almost every technical measurement but by user acclaim as well. Most netbooks are created equal on the inside with the main differences being in outward design and included or available options and to my thinking it frequently came down to who had the better keyboard, a measurement by which Asus usually lost even when they might win on every other consideration; however, the eeePC now has decisively closed that issue with a keyboard as good or better than any other, regardless of the optically-delusional preference many would initially express for the Dell or HP. Once they fixed the keyboard, the fundamental performance and feature advantages that Asus has consistently maintained in the eeePC line begin to make the choice easier; and when comparing reliability factors indicated by repair trends where both Dell and Asus products are used, such as Irving ISD (an exemplary peer among school netbook deployments), it becomes a no-brainer.

The fast approaching and practically "day-one" deployment to every student at Eustace High School on a "full-time" (including take-home) basis precludes more time here describing the benefits of the 1005HA over the many other netbooks evaluated for our program; but those who have followed this Blog or otherwise kept up with our project will know that every effort has been made to fully consider every relevant factor before coming to this critical decision on a resource and tool propitious to excellence in education at Eustace ISD.

Board Meeting Tonight

by Coy Holcombe.  

Tonight at 7:00 PM, the EISD Board of Trustees will hold their regular monthly meeting. The meeting will take place in the High School library. Everyone is invited to attend. Below is a summary of the agenda items:

  • Presentation by Sandy Sowers, High School Cheerleader Sponsor
  • Financial reports
  • General Reports
    • Henderson County SSA Budget Comparisons
    • Appraisal District Budgets
    • Attendance Comparisons
    • PaySchools Report
    • Sheriff’s Sale of Property
    • Preliminary FIRST Rating
    • Texas Municipal Report
    • Update on Texas Public School Nutrition Policy
  • Consider Student Code of Conduct for 09-10 and review Student Handbook for 09-10.
  • Consider purchase of 600 netbook computers.
  • Consider the addition of an inclusion teacher for 09-10 and 10-11 to be paid for with federal stimulus funds.
  • Consider approval of alternative education program
    • Aide position for program
    • Purchase of Educate 2020 software for AEP and DAEP Programs
    • AEP Handbook – Review only
  • Consider revisions to Policy EIC (Local): Academic Achievement and Class Ranking
  • Consider revisions to Policy EIF(Local): Academic Achievement – Graduation
  • Consider approval of tax refund
  • Consider bids for track resurfacing
  • Consider purchase of Springboard Math Materials for 6, 7, 8 grades and Algebra I and Geometry.
  • Consider proposals for washers and dryers for new competition gym
  • Consider property, liability and vehicle insurance bids for the 09-10 school year.
  • Consider sale of property
  • Repairs to football stadium turf
  • Closed Meeting – Personnel
  • Consider action on closed session items
  • Adjourn

 

Briefing Book

by Coy Holcombe.  

After each legislative session, TEA produces a briefing book that summarizes all the bills related to education. Each summary contains a brief description of what the bill provides, along with reporting requirements, effective date, and other information. We will review all the bills and make notes of which bills will specifically change or impact our programs in EISD. We will review these changes with administrators in August. For your reference, the Briefing Book is attached to this blog.

Truth in Taxation: Required Public Notice and Meeting

by Coy Holcombe.  

Before the public hearing on the budget, a school district is required to publish a quarter page notice that provides information about the public hearing and information about the tax rate and revenue:

A school district publishes one notice – NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING TO DISCUSS BUDGET AND PROPOSED TAX RATE – in a local newspaper. The notice appears in the newspaper no later than 10 days nor earlier than 30 days before the date of the public meeting.

School districts are not required to publish the effective tax rate and other schedules required by law for other types of taxing units. The rollback tax rate and unencumbered fund balances will appear on on this one notice (Truth in Taxation, p 17).

State law provides that the notice contain certain information. While a district can make their own notice, a notice is furnished by the comptroller’s office that meets all the state requirements. Whatever notice is used, it must contain the following information;

First Paragraph: Name of the school district, date, time, and place of the public meeting. The notice must state that a school district cannot adopt a rate that exceeds the proposed rate shown on the notice. The final part of this paragraph contains the proposed M & O rate and the proposed I & S rate.

The second section is titled "Comparison of Proposed Budget with Last Year’s Budget." This section must show the percent of increase or decrease in the amount of budgeted for the preceding year and the amount budgeted for the current year.

The third section is titled "Total Appraised Value and Total Taxable Value."

Districts are then required to state the amount of their outstanding bonded indebtedness.

The next part of the notice is a chart with three columns that state the school district’s tax rates for M & O, interest and sinking (I & S) and the total rate. There are three rows in the chart: 1) Last Year’s Rate, Rate to Maintain Same Level of Maintenance & Operations Revenue & Pay Debt Service, and 3) Proposed Rate. All of these values are calculated by spreadsheets. 

The next part of the notice is another chart that compares the proposed tax rate with last year’s tax rate on an average residence in the school district. There are five rows in this chart: 1) Average Market Value of Residence, 2) Average Taxable Value of Residence, 3) Last Year’s Rate Versus Propose Rate – per $100 Value, 4) Taxes Due on Average Residence, and 5) Increase (Decrease) in Taxes.

The seventh part of the notice is a statement about the homesteads of people 65 or older being frozen once they reach the age of 65.

The eighth part is a Notice of Rollback Rate.

The final part is an estimate of the district’s unencumbered fund balances remaining in the M & 0 accounts and the I & S accounts at the end of the current fiscal year. 

There you have the legal requirements of the notification that districts must publish. At this point in time, I cannot give you an exact date on when EISD will be publishing our notice. I would estimate that it would be published in the first two weeks of August.  

 

Effective Rate and Rollback Rate

by Coy Holcombe.  

Two of the calculations that school districts must make are the effective tax rate and the rollback tax rate. School districts are required to publish their rollback tax rate. Today, I want to talk about the definition of these two tax rates. I will be using the definitions from the 2009 Truth in Taxation Guide published by the Texas Comptroller’s office.

Effective Tax Rate:

The effective tax rate is a calculated rate that would provide the school district with about the same amount of revenue it received in the year before, on properties taxed in both years. If property values rise, the effective rate will go down and vice versa (Truth in Taxation Guide, p 1).

Effective M & O Tax Rate:

The effective maintenance and operations rate is the rate that, when imposed on the current year’s taxable value, yields state and local revenue per student equal to the state and local revenue per student for the preceding year, including the new funds distributed for property tax relief and additional funding for teacher pay raises and high schools (Truth in Taxation Guide, p.1).

The basic calculation for the effective rate is to take the prior year’s taxes less the taxes on property lost for the current year and divide it by the current value of property taxed in the prior year. The result is then multiplied by 100. The calculations can be fairly simple if a school district knows all the numbers required to plug into the worksheet. This is where the appraisal district comes in: school districts receive the required numbers from the appraisal district.

Rollback Tax Rate:

The rollback rate is a calculated maximum rate allowed by law without voter approval. The rollback rate is the LESSER of (1) the sum of the current compression percentage (0.6667 for 2009) times $1.50 (or times the 2005 M & O rate for school districts with 2005 M & O rates above $1.50), plus 4 cents, plus the rate that is equal to the sum of any differences between the adopted tax rate and the rollback rate approved by the voters for 2006 and subsequent years, plus the current debt rate OR (2) the sum of the effective M & O tax rate plus the rate equal to the current state compression percentage times 0.06 (this amounts to 4 cents in 2009), plus the current debt rate. In future years, the commissioner of education may determine a different compression percentage (Truth in Taxation Guide, p 1).

M & O revenue for a district is what the district uses for day to day operations. M & O revenue pays salaries, utilities, etc. The debt service revenue (usually referred to as interest and sinking, or I & S) is the tax rate amount used to pay for voter approved bonds. The calculations for the effective tax rate do not require that a district distinguish between M & O and I & S. However, the calculation for the rollback tax rate is the sum of the maximum M & O rate and debt service rate.

While the definition of the rollback rate sounds complicated, once the effective tax rate is calculated, it is really a fairly easy calculation to make; however, in order to calculate the rollback rate, the effective tax rate must be done first. So, again, we get back to the numbers needed from the appraisal districts. EISD is very fortunate to be associated with two appraisal districts that understand the importance of these calculations and always strive to get these required numbers to us in a timely manner.

More on taxes tomorrow.

2009 Truth in Taxation Guide

by Coy Holcombe.  

The Comptroller’s office has issued the 2009 Truth in Taxation Guide for school districts. This guide aides school districts in the steps necessary to set an M & O and I & S tax rate. The guide provides an overview of the tax setting process, definitions used during the process, a summary of the new laws that will affect setting tax rates, as well as worksheets for calculating the effective tax rate and the rollback rate. In addition, the guide provides the notices that districts must publish in a local newspaper.

Over the next few days, we will talk about different parts of the 2009 Guide and how it impacts EISD. Today, we will examine the steps in adopting a tax rate for EISD. The first step in adopting a tax rate for school districts is to calculate the required rates. School districts must perform two different calculations: the effective tax rate and the rollback rate. These rates are dependent upon certified tax roles provided by our appraisal districts (EISD works with Henderson County and Van Zandt County Appraisal Districts). The appraisal districts must have the certified values to school districts no later than July 27.

The next step is to draft a budget and decide how much tax to levy. We have actually been working on a budget for the 09-10 school year since last December. Usually, districts use estimates of taxable value (based on prior years) to start the budget process.

The third step is to adopt the district’s tax rate. Before a district may adopt a tax rate, the board must propose a tax rate, publish the tax rate proposed, along with other information, and publish the time and place of a public hearing to discuss the tax rate and budget.

The fourth step is to administer a rollback election, if necessary. A rollback election is automatically generated in a school district if the board adopts a tax rate above the rollback rate. There is no petition necessary for a school district rollback election.

Finally, school districts prepare and mail out the tax bills.

Over the next few days, if you have any questions about the tax rate process or the budget process, please do not hesitate to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.

 

Health Courses and Nutrition Policy

by Coy Holcombe.  

Yes, it is true that the state will no longer require a health course to graduate. This seems to go against the emphasis that has been placed on health related matters in recent years. Even though health will no longer be required by the state, local districts will still have the flexibility to have health be a local requirement. This topic will be discussed at the July board meeting.

On a related topic, stricter guidelines will be in effect for preparing food and for foods of minimum nutritional value (FMNV) for the 09-10 school year. First, all deep-fat frying must be eliminated in all schools (actually, EISD eliminated this last year). Second, high schools may not serve or provide access for students to FMNV and all other forms of candy at any time anywhere on school premises until the end of the last scheduled class. According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, "Such foods and beverages may not be sold or given away to students on school premises by school administrators or staff, students or student groups, parents or parent groups, guest speakers, and any other person, company or organization." Finally, the guidelines provide that, "High schools may not serve or provide access for students to FMNV and all other forms of candy at any time anywhere on school premises until after the end of the last scheduled class. This includes candy bars and packaged candies."

There are certain exemptions to the policies (for example birthday parties, snacks on TAKS testing days, field trips, etc.). A copy of the Policy at a Glance document is attached to this blog.

 

 

 

Update on Stimulus Funds

by Coy Holcombe.  

It has been awhile since we talked about the stimulus funds that EISD will receive from the federal government. I thought I would take this opportunity and update everyone about what is happening with regards to those funds.

First, a quick review: EISD will receive about $127,000 in Title I stimulus funds. EISD will also receive about $300,000 in additional IDEA funds. IDEA funds are designed to be spent on special education.

Currently, the projects that the district will be providing with these funds include:

Reading Intervention Program at the High School and Middle School – we will use a combination of Title I funds and IDEA funds to implement a reading intervention program at these campuses. The program we will use is called Read 180. It is a research based program that has a good track record for increasing reading abilities in students that are below grade level. Some of the funds have been used to hire a reading instructor at the High School. We will also be purchasing at least one new server and several classroom computers to run the Read 180 program.

Research-Based Dyslexia Program – We are purchasing a computer-based dyslexia program for the district with the stimulus funds. We have tried various approaches with dyslexia in the past and have had fairly good results. However, this program will allow for consistency at all campuses throughout the district. The great advantage of this program is that it is web-based. This means that students that need this intervention will not only have access to it at school, but will be able to access it from home also.

Special Education Aide – We will be using part of our IDEA funds to hire a special education aide.

Shared Services Co-op – Each of the districts in our special education co-op will be contributing a portion of their IDEA funds to help meet some specific needs of the co-op.

We have also set aside a portion of our Title I funds to send teachers to professional development activities.

Since the stimulus funds were designed to be spent over a two year period, we are also encumbering some of the funds to be used in the 2010-2011 school year. We are also continuing to look at our needs throughout the district. As we go through these needs, we are examining whether these stimulus funds could help out in specific areas. If you have any questions about the stimulus funds for EISD, please do not hesitate to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.