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



 $  1.303

 $   0.062

 $  1.365


 $    1.32

 $     0.07

 $    1.39


 $    1.32

 $     0.07

 $    1.39


 $    1.38

 $     0.01

 $    1.39


 $    1.41

 $     0.06

 $    1.47


 $    1.45

 $     0.22

 $    1.67













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.
































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.

Property Taxes, Part 2

by Coy Holcombe.  

Yesterday, we talked about exemptions and how to calculate property taxes on a homestead. In our calculations, we used the figure $1.258/100 as our tax rate. This is the adopted tax rate for the 08-09 fiscal year. This tax rate is made up of two parts: the maintenance and operations (M & O) part and the interest and sinking (I & S) part. For 08-09 the M & O rate is $1.04/100 and the I & S rate is $0.218/100. These two components of the overall tax rate serve two completely different functions.

The maintenance and operation rate provides funds for the daily operations of the school district. The money generated through the M & O rate is used to pay for salaries, supplies, travel, and the various costs associated with the day to day operation of the district (such as utilities).  The amount of tax revenue generated under the M & O rate also earns the district additional state aid. This additional state aid is commonly referred to as Tier II funds. For the 08-09 school year, we are estimating that the district will earn approximately $770,000 in Tier II aid.

The interest and sinking portion of the tax rate is used to pay for the voter approved bonds of the district. Currently, the district is paying for three different bond packages: the bonds that were sold to build the Intermediate School, the bonds that were sold to do the recent renovations and additions at all campuses, and the bonds that were sold to build the new competition gym. At the start of the 08-09 school year, our unpaid principal balance for our bonds was $14,285,000. Currently, our total bond payment is slightly over $1,000,000. The district also receives some state aid to help pay for our bonds. We will receive approximately $133,000 from the state through the existing debt allotment (EDA). As with Tier II funds under M & O, the existing debt allotment can increase based on the tax effort of the district.

For 08-09, the board voted to use approximately $28,000 of fund balance from our I & S fund to help pay for our bond payments. This use of fund balance helped the district actually lower the I & S rate by a little more than a penny from last year (last year’s overall tax rate was $1.26804 compared to this year’s tax rate of $1.258).

While tax rates and state aid can seem fairly confusing at times, I want everyone to know where our taxes are going and how the system works. If you have any questions concerning tax rates or state aid, please do not hesitate to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.

Property Taxes

by Coy Holcombe.  

Soon, the property owners in the district will start receiving their tax statements for the 2008-2009 school year. I would like to briefly go over the exemptions that may affect your tax bill and give an example of how your school property taxes are calculated.

First, all homesteads are granted a $15,000 exemption from the state. Further, EISD provides an optional 20% homestead exemption. This 20% optional exemption is deducted before the $15,000 exemption is deducted. EISD is one of the few districts in this area that still grants the optional homestead exemption.

To see how these exemptions work, let’s look at an example. Suppose we were paying taxes on our home that has a value of $100,000. Assuming that this property is declared a homestead, we would be entitled to two exemptions: the optional 20% homestead exemption and the $15,000 homestead exemption from the state. The exemptions would be calculated as follows:

20% Optional Exemption is taken first. $100,000 x 20% = $20,000. So the optional homestead exemption would deduct $20,000 from the taxable value of this home. $100,000 – $20,000 = $80,000.

Next, the state homestead exemption of $15,000 is deducted: $80,000 – $15,000 = $65,000. So the taxable value for school district taxes on this $100,000 home is $65,000.

To calculate the school property taxes owed on this $100,000 home, we would now do the following:

Take the taxable value after all exemptions: $65,000. Divide this amount by 100. This would give us 650. Multiply this figure by the district tax rate of $1.258: 650 x $1.258 = $817.70. So, a taxpayer in our district with a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $820.00 in school property taxes. Again, this example is assuming that the homeowner has declared this property to be their homestead. There are also other exemptions that may apply to certain individuals.

If EISD did not offer the optional 20% homestead exemption, the taxes on the above property would be approximately $1070.00 ($100,000 – $15,000 = $85,000 ÷100 x 1.258). If you have any questions concerning your property taxes, please contact Debbie Myers (425 – 5232 or dmyers@eustaceisd.net). Please do not hesitate to email me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net with your questions or comments. I hope everyone has a fantastic week.


by Coy Holcombe.  

The electronic grade book that the district uses, GradeSpeed, has a feature called ParentConnection that allows parents/guardians to monitor their children’s grade via the Internet. Attendance can also be monitored this way. In order to take advantage of these features, all you need is an Internet connection and an email address.

To enroll in ParentConnection, go to the district’s homepage, www.eustaceisd.net, and look on the left-hand side of the page for the “GradeSpeed Parent/Teacher Access” link. Click on this link. A “Sign in to GradeSpeed” page will appear with several choices. Click on the “Parent” link at the bottom.  The sign in screen will now appear. Click on the link at the bottom of the sign in box that is titled “Click here to sign up.”  An information screen will appear. At this screen, you are asked to provide a user name and a password. The user name can be anything that you like; however, it needs to be something that is easy to remember. Many people choose the first initial of their first name along with their entire last name. For example, Sam Jones might choose the user name sjones. You will also have to provide a password.  This password may be letters, numbers, or a combination of letters and numbers. The other information required at the top of this page is self-explanatory. In the middle of this page is a button that says “Add Email.” Click on this button to add an email address to your account. At the bottom of the page is a check box stating that you agree to the terms and conditions of using this service. Once all of the information is entered, click the “Submit” link at the bottom of the page. Your information will be submitted to the appropriate campus for review.

Once your information is reviewed and approved, you will receive an email stating that you can now log in to ParentConnection. On your initial log in, you will need to add your students to your account. To do this, click on the blue link titled “Add a student to my account.” A screen will appear and ask you to enter information for the student you wish to add. You will need to enter the student’s name, address, birthday, and campus. You will also have to enter the student’s ID number. If you are unsure of this number, please refer to that student’s report card. If you do not have a report card, you will need to contact the campus that student attends and ask for their ID number. At the bottom of the page, click the “Submit” button. The campus that your student attends will review this information and add your student to your account. The campus will also send you an email to let you know that your child has been added to your account. If you have more than one child, regardless of what campus they attend, simply follow the same procedure for adding that child. You do not have to have separate accounts for each child.

One of the best features of the ParentConnection program is the ability to set “triggers” for your children. Triggers will generate an email or text message if your child’s average in any case falls below an average that you have set. Triggers can also be used to monitor your child’s attendance. To set triggers, you must be logged into ParentConnection. On the left side of the page, click on the “Triggers” link.

You can access ParentConnection anytime to view your child’s current averages. The averages are clickable and will let you see all the grades that make up that average. I encourage all parents to take advantage of this informative tool.  

Videos on the Website

by Coy Holcombe.  

Last year, visitors to our homepage had an opportunity to view weekly video updates from the high school. There were also videos available of special events at other campuses. This year EISD is expanding its video content at all campuses. We are doing this for several reasons: first, it is important that our students know and learn how to use this technology. Second, this gives an opportunity for parents to view events that they may not have been able to attend. Third, it gives community members an opportunity to keep up with some of the events happening at EISD. Finally, as we expand our video library, we hope to be able to provide parents and students with an opportunity to review important presentations at a later time.

One of the major goals this year was the live broadcast of a Friday night football game over the Internet. Rusty Meyners, the district’s technology coordinator, has done an outstanding job in making this a reality. Rusty has also recruited high school students to help in this undertaking.

As this year progresses, EISD will be adding to its video library. Please visit the homepage and click on the television for a listing of available videos at each campus.