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Trustees approve tax rate for publication

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By Wesley Gardner
LPR Editor

The Lockhart school district Board of Trustees on Monday approved the publication of the 2020-21 proposed tax rate and set a public meeting to discuss the budget and tax rate for June 22.
Under the proposed rates, the district’s maintenance and operations tax rate would fall to $0.9664 per $100 valuation and the interest and sinking tax rate, which is used to service debt obligations, would fall to $0.2864 per $100 valuation. The total proposed tax rate of $1.2528 would be a decrease of $0.0096 from last year’s rate.
District Chief Financial Officer Tina Knudsen stressed that the tax rate and budget are still subject to change because the district hasn’t received the final certified property values that will provide local revenue.
“As we do each year, we practice conservative budgeting, but this year especially, in light of the state and federal situation,” said Knudsen, noting the district would have a better idea of what revenues will look like after certified property values are released on July 25. “The [current proposed tax rate] publication will be higher than what we really think it will be when we come back in August.”
Knudsen noted that because area property values have increased by roughly 10 percent from last year, the district could potentially lose more than $583,000 in state funding.
“The higher the property values, the lower the state aid, therefore increasing the local taxpayer burden,” said Knudsen. “We’ve been basically having to deal with the state comptroller telling the local appraisal district to raise values.”
According to Knudsen, the estimated revenues for the 2020-21 budget will exceed the proposed expenditures by roughly $323,000, leaving that money available in the district’s fund balance, though Knudsen stressed again the numbers were preliminary and subject to change.
School Board Presidents questioned the effectiveness of a budgeting process without having access to concrete numbers.
“So, we’re having to do a budget with numbers we really don’t know until after we’re halfway through our budget year,” said Johnson “Here, just guess what you’re going to have, and we may give you money, we may not.
“We need to talk to our legislatures and get them on the same page. Who does that besides our state? I’m sorry. I’m a little frustrated right now.”
Knudsen agreed that the process was reliant on predictions.
“We have to have a crystal ball,” said Knudsen.
District officials will next meet to discuss the budget and tax rate at 6:30 p.m. June 22.
In other business, trustees voted to move forward with the district’s summer camp, though restrictions will be put into place aimed at fighting the potential spread of COVID-19.
According the Director of Community Education Karla Tate, the four-week camp will be offered to 70 students at a rate of $150 per week, or $125 per week for students who qualify for the district’s free and reduced cost meal program.
Tate noted the safety measures that would be put in place would include limiting group sizes to 10 students per one adult, keeping groups separate from each other and having students eat their meals in their individual classrooms.
Additionally, students and teachers will have their temperature taken each day upon arrival and weekly questionnaires will be given to parents to help ensure potentially sick students do not attend.
Tate added that all students and staff will be required to wear face coverings and recommended they maintain a 6-foot distance from each other. A full-time custodian would be tasked with cleaning and disinfecting the school throughout the day and all playscapes would be wiped down after every use.
Superintendent Mark Estrada said the safety measures would serve as valuable practice for any restrictions that might be imposed when schools reopen next year.
“This gives a little bit of an opportunity to experience how we’re going do this in the fall when we open up school,” said Estrada. “I think it’s important for us to do it in a way that is probably as restrictive as we’re going to see, so that we’re experienced and have some practice when the school year comes around and we open up schools.”
According to Tate, activities offered at the camp will include painting, messy art, music and dance, science experiments, jewelry making, creative snacks, reading, wood crafting, fishing, nature hikes, disc golf, 3D art, weaving and crafts.
“It will be fun,” said Tate. “It will be great for the kiddos, and we’re very excited about it.”
Tate noted that roughly 50 percent of parents who responded in a survey that they would be interested in enrolling their children in the camp said they needed a place for their children to go during that time frame, as opposed to 29 percent who said there wasn’t a distinct need, just an interest in letting their kids enjoy a fun, safe summer camp.
“We do want to give priority to the parents who said they really needed the service,” said Tate. “So, as parents register, we will take that in consideration.”
The camp will be held Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from June 15-26 and July 6-17.

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