Last Night and Next Week

by Coy Holcombe.  

First, congratulations to Coach Chuck Powers and the varsity volleyball team on a great win last night in Wills Point. The Bulldog volleyball team won in 3 straight games over a good Wills Point team. This win brings the Bulldogs to a 5-1 mark overall in district.

If you have visited our homepage within the last week, you have noticed the announcement about transportation being provided to the Kemp game next week. Currently, due to construction, there is no spectator parking available at the Kemp football stadium. Spectators are parking at campuses and are riding shuttle buses that run every 20 minutes to the stadium. In order to help with the parking situation, EISD will be offering free transportation to the games for all the Bulldog fans.

We will have at least one bus leave at 4:00 for the volleyball games. Following the volleyball games, this bus will drop off the fans to the football game. If you are attending the football game only, we will have multiple buses leaving at 6:30. These buses will drop you off at the football field and then pick you up after the game is over.

While this transportation will be provided at no cost to our fans, we are asking that you notify Sherry Dudley, receptionist at the high school, if you plan on riding a bus. This will ensure that we have an adequate number of bus drivers available next Friday. You may contact Mrs. Dudley at 425 – 5233. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net or you may call Mrs. Dudley at the above number.

Volleyball and Band

by Coy Holcombe.  

Tonight our volleyball teams travel to Wills Point for a crucial district match. Our varsity girls are now 4-1 in district. Tonight’s game is the start of the second half of district. I encourage everyone to make the trip over to Wills Point to support our Bulldog volleyball team.

The Mighty Bulldog Marching Band will be competing in the annual UIL marching contest in Mesquite on Wednesday. The band has put in many hours in preparation for this contest. If you have never been to a marching contest, I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity and make the drive up to Mesquite. The Bulldog Band performs at 4:30. The following link provides a map of the location of the stadium: http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Mesquite&state=TX&address=2411+W+Scyene+Road&zipcode=75149

Payment vs. Earned

by Coy Holcombe.  

In the world of school finance, a district is often paid too much money by the state. This is called overpayment. For the 07-08 school year, EISD was overpaid by the state. Why did we get overpaid? Is this a bad thing? What does this mean for our funding this year? These are all good questions and will be the subject of today’s blog. 

First, all districts are paid based on estimates from the state. Sometimes, these estimates are below actual numbers and sometimes these estimates are above the actual numbers. Very seldom, if ever, will these estimates match the actual numbers for a district during the school year. The key is to remember that the amount of payment is secondary to the amount of funding being earned. That is why it is vital that we keep track during the school year of the amount of money we are earning. The quickest way for a district to get into financial trouble is to spend all the money sent to them by the state without taking into consideration the amount of money that they are earning. (A note of clarification: school districts "earn" funding based on their overall ADA, their ADA of special programs, transportation costs, tax effort, etc.)

 In the 07-08 school year EISD was overpaid because the state’s estimate of our ADA did not match the actual ADA of the 07-08 school year. For several years, we had a slow but steady growth in enrollment. In 07-08 this trend reversed itself and we had a decline in enrollment. The state estimated that our enrollment would continue to increase and sent us state funds based on this increase in enrollment. When our enrollment actually decreased, this created an overpayment situation.

As mentioned before, as long as a district is monitoring their finances and making estimates based on the actual data throughout the school year, an overpayment is not necessarily a bad thing. What would be an extremely bad situation would be for a district to blindly spend all the money sent to them by the state without taking into account the actual funding that is being earned. During the 07-08 school year, we knew that we were being overpaid. Each six weeks, we added our actual attendance data for that six weeks to arrive at the best possible estimate for our earned funding. Being overpaid is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the district does not spend the overpayment.

It goes without saying that if the state sends you too much money one year, they are going to want that money back. While EISD will not actually write the state a check for the overpayment from 07-08, it will be deducted from our 08-09 school year funding. Again, and I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough, as long as that money has not been spent, then a district is okay.

What would happen if a district was underpaid? This happens quite often actually. The state could actually owe a school district more money at the end of a school year if they earned more than they were paid. When this happens, the state makes an extra payment to the school district. In fact, we were notified recently that we had actually earned more money in the 06-07 school year than we were paid. Thus, the state recently sent us additional funds for the 06-07 school year.

Estimating the amount of revenue that you are earning is key to financial stability for a school district. At the end of each six weeks, we estimate the amount of state aid earned and compare that with our budget and with the amount of state aid that is sent to us by the state. This allows our board and administrators the opportunity to see how our district is doing financially. If you have any questions regarding overpayments or underpayments, please feel free to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.

Federal Funding

by Coy Holcombe.  

Although we receive a majority of our funding from state and local sources, EISD also receives some funding from federal grant programs. Currently there are four major grant programs that provide funding to EISD: Title I, Part A-Improving Basic Programs, Title II, Part A-Teacher and Principal Training and Retention, Title II, Part D-Enhancing Education Through Technology, and Title IV, Part A-Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities (technically, there is a fifth federal program, Headstart, in which EISD receives reimbursements for salaries and benefits).

By far, our largest federal grant program is Title I, Part A. EISD will receive about $266,000 in funding through this program for the 08-09 school year. This majority of this funding is used to pay for teacher and aide salaries. Title I is also used to partially fund the achievement tests at the Primary and is used to pay for certain services from the Region 7 Education Service Center.

Title II, Part A is our second largest funding source from the federal level. EISD will receive about $68,000 from this grant for the 08-09 school year. About $9,000 of this grant pays for services received from the Service Center. The rest of this grant goes for teacher salaries and benefits.

The Safe and Drug Free grant is used to pay for drug awareness and prevention programs. In 08-09, EISD will receive about $4,400. Most of this grant goes to the company that furnishes the drug dog that visits all the campuses throughout the school year. The remaining portion goes to the counselors at each campus to purchase drug awareness materials.

Finally, EISD will receive about $2,400 in our Title II, Part D-Enhancing Education Through Technology grant. All of these funds will go toward goods and services related to technology in education.

If you have any questions regarding our federal grant programs, please contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net. I hope everyone has a great weekend.

1st Annual Parent Conference – READY. SET. LEARN.

by Coy Holcombe.  

The Region 7 Education Service Center will host the 1st Annual Parent Conference on October 22 in Kilgore. "This conference will equip you with skills, knowledge, and confidence to partner with your child’s school so that together you know your child is READY, and SET to LEARN." The conference is free and lunch will be provided. All participants will receive a copy of the book, Parent’s Homework Dictionary and a $15.00 voucher to purchase books for your home at Scholastic’s Book Fair Safari.

Copies of the brochure for this conference can be downloaded at www.esc7.net/news/parent_conference.pdf. The brochure contains information about the break out sessions as well as information about registering for the conference.

For more information, contact Susan Lay at (903) 988-6897 or slay@esc7.net or Cinda Farrell at (903) 988-6822 or cfarrell@esc7.net.

The Region 7  Education Service Center is located at 1909 North Longview Street in Kilgore.

Activities This Week

by Coy Holcombe.  

Congratulations to the varsity volleyball team on their victory last night against Kemp. The win pushed their record to 3-1 in district. Our JV volleyball girls posted a win last night also.

Although a short week, this week is packed with activities. Tonight is report card pick-up night at the Middle School. The report card pick-up will start at 3:00 PM and go until 6:00 PM. The other campuses will be sending report cards home on Thursday. Also, our intramural soccer league kicks off today at 3:30. Come out and watch our 5th and 6th graders have a great time. The games will be played on the Intermediate playground fields.

Our Middle School and JV football teams will be in action on Thursday. The Middle School teams will be traveling to Mineola. The JV team will be hosting Mineola at Bulldog Stadium starting at 6:00.

On Friday, the Primary School and the Middle School will be having their six weeks awards assemblies. Also on Friday, the volleyball team resumes district play against Mineola. The games will be at Mineola. The varsity football team will play their first district game on Friday at Mineola. I encourage everyone to make the trip to Mineola on Friday to support our young ladies and young men. Also, if you come to the football game on Friday, you will have the chance to see our varsity cheerleaders (which is the best cheerleading team in the area) perform and you will get to see the "Rhythm Machine on 316" at halftime.

On Saturday, our Mighty Bulldog Marching Band will be competing at the Cedar Creek Marching Festival in Mabank. The band is tuning up their halftime show for the UIL competition to be held in Mesquite on October 15.

Please make plans to attend and be a part of as many activities as possible this week.   

TEKS and TAKS

by Coy Holcombe.  

Each year, parents and students hear the terms TEKS and TAKS used in reference to educational issues. In some cases, the two can seem to mean the same thing; however, there is a world of difference between these two acronyms.

 

TEKS—Texas Essential Knowledge and Skill

 

TEKS are what students should learn during a grade level or course. Each grade level in grades K—8 have specific TEKS that teachers are expected to teach and that students are expected to master. In grades 9-12, each course has specific TEKS. At the lower grades, TEKS are written in concrete term. As the students progress from one grade level to the next, the TEKS become more abstract. Also, TEKS are written at a higher overall level than the old essential elements (the essential elements were developed in the mid 1980’s and were focused on basic skills).  Not all subjects or courses have the same number of TEKS. Most subjects and courses have a reasonable number of TEKS; however, some English courses and some social studies courses seem to have an excessive number of TEKS; so many, in fact, that teachers have a difficult time in covering all the required material. The TEKS in these two areas, English and social studies, are being examined at the state level to try to ease this excessiveness.

 

TAKS—Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills

 

The TAKS test is the state accountability test that is based on the TEKS. The TEKS are taught throughout the year. The TAKS test is an attempt to gauge whether the TEKS have been mastered by our students. The TAKS test is basically a sampling of some of the TEKS at each grade level and each subject area. Many times, you hear people talking about “teaching to the test”. Since our teachers are required to teach the TEKS and since the TAKS test is taken from the TEKS, by definition, our teachers cannot help but teach the test.  While this may sound like a negative situation, the alternative, testing the students on concepts they have not been taught, is even less appealing.

Property Taxes, Part 5

by Coy Holcombe.  

In this fifth and final entry on property taxes, I want to talk about where we get our information from regarding our property tax values. Until this year, EISD received all of the property value information from the Henderson County Appraisal District. Even though we had a few properties in Van Zandt County, all of the property information came through Henderson County.

Starting with this tax year, changes in the law governing appraisal districts now require information concerning property values to come from the appraisal district that actually contains the property. Now, EISD receives information on the properties in the district from both Henderson County and Van Zandt County. These numbers are then totaled together to give us the figures required to fill out the necessary forms from the comptroller’s office.

I want to state that both the Henderson County Appraisal District and the Van Zandt County Appraisal District have gone above and beyond in helping EISD understand and use the property values furnished from their offices. Without the help of these two appraisal districts, obtaining and entering the necessary information for calculating the required figures would be much more time consuming and complicated for the district.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Property Taxes, Part 4

by Coy Holcombe.  

Today, I wanted to review our tax rate history from the past several years. Below you will find a table that lists the district’s tax rates from 2000 to our current tax rate:

Tax Rate Comparisons 

 

M & O

I & S

Total

2000

 $  1.303

 $   0.062

 $  1.365

2001

 $    1.32

 $     0.07

 $    1.39

2002

 $    1.32

 $     0.07

 $    1.39

2003

 $    1.38

 $     0.01

 $    1.39

2004

 $    1.41

 $     0.06

 $    1.47

2005

 $    1.45

 $     0.22

 $    1.67

2006

$1.3257

$0.1918

$1.5175

2007

$1.04

$0.22804

$1.26804

2008

$1.04

$0.2180

$1.2580

A couple of notes about some of the tax rates listed above: in 2003, our I & S rate dropped to $.01. In order to maximize our state funding, our M & O rate needed to be increased; however, the board did not want to increase our overall tax rate. Therefore, the board voted to use fund balance in our I & S account to help pay for our bonds. This act served both purposes: it helped increase our state aid and it kept the overall tax rate constant at $1.39.

In 2005, there was a substantial increase in the I & S rate. This was the year that we sold the $9 million in voter approved bonds to help build additional classrooms and provide renovations at all campuses. These bond funds were also used to build the new practice gym, weight room, and dressing rooms at the Middle School. These funds will also be used to pay for the new transportation facility and pay for moving the maintenance department from their current location to the old transportation facility.

In 2007, there was a dramatic decrease in our M & O tax rate. This was the year that the legislature passed HB 1. This bill sought to provide tax relief by lowering M & O rates and increasing the overall amount of aid that the state provided. Also in 2007, you see a slight increase in the I & S rate. This increase was due to the selling of the additional $4 million in bonds for the new competition gym.

The district’s tax rate is set in August of each year. There is a public hearing to discuss the tax rate and overall budget for the upcoming school year. For the 08-09 school year, the board voted to approve an M & O tax rate of $1.04 and an I & S tax rate of $0.218 for an overall tax rate of $1.2580. This new tax rate represents a decrease of a little over a penny from last year’s rate.

If you have any questions concerning our tax rate, please do not hesitate to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.

Property Taxes, Part 3

by Coy Holcombe.  

As we continue to look at property taxes, today I want to discuss the increase in taxable values that the district has experienced over the last several years. The table below details our certified taxable values from 2002 through this current tax year.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Total

$271,652,498

$310,135,314

$339,486,401

$364,411,086

$410,312,622

$434,776,495

$481,961,754

Frozen

$22,527,968

$27,384,006

$35,036,283

$36,959,064

$45,066,364

$51,845,596

$56,473,798

Taxable

$249,124,530

$282,751,308

$304,450,118

$327,452,022

$365,246,258

$382,930,899

$425,487,956

As you can see, since 2002, there has been a tremendous increase in our taxable values. The row labeled “Total” is the total taxable value of all properties. The row labeled “Frozen” represents the properties in the district that have had their taxes frozen (the owners of the property have reached age 65 or there is some other circumstance that has caused their value to become frozen). The row labeled “Taxable” is the difference between the “Total” and the “Frozen” values.

In terms of percent, since 2002, our taxable values have gone up about 71%. Needless to say, this has impacted the tax bills of the property owners in our district. With the passage of HB 1, the legislature attempted to offset the rise in property values by setting limits on the tax rate; however, even with these adjusted tax rates, we are reaching the limits of property tax relief with the continued rise of property values.

Although it would seem that the district would benefit greatly from the increase in property values (from increased tax revenues), that increase is somewhat offset by how the state calculates its share of our funding. In the state funding formulas, there is an item called "Local Share". This amount is deducted from the state’s share of funding and is directly related to the amount of property value in a district. Basically, this is calculated by multiplying the preceding year’s certified values from the comptroller by $.0086. So, as you can imagine, as our property value goes up, our Local Share also increases. As our Local Share goes up, our state aid goes down. (Note: The calculations can get somewhat more involved than those stated here; however, this is the basic way that our state funding calculations are made).

The relationship between local property taxes and state aid is complicated. EISD strives to maintain the maximum state funding while keeping our property taxes to a minimum. If you have any questions concerning our property taxes or state funding, please email me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.

On a different note, congratulations to the varsity volleyball team on their victory last night against Canton. Our girls are now 2-0 in district play.