LISD eyes 15-cent tax decrease
By LPR Staff
Legislative changes to school financing and an increase in average property values across the state has resulted in the Lockhart Independent School District”s ability to lower tax rates for the coming year.
During their Monday evening meeting, the LISD Board of Trustees set a budget hearing on Aug. 21, 2006. This year”s
budget, which started at a deficit of $1.3 million has been honed and changed, and will be presented to the public during the Aug. 21 hearing.
One of the notable items in this year”s budget is an overall 15 cent per $100 decrease in taxes for the next budget year. That rate includes a 13-cent decrease in Maintenance and Operations taxes and a 2-cent decrease in Debt Service taxes.
In other budget news, the board heard the results of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) salary survey performed earlier this year. The survey was meant to provide a clear picture of how LISD measures up, in terms of salary, pay grades and benefits, to other, similar districts throughout the state.
The survey, which was the topic of much heated discussion from many board members, revealed that LISD teachers are paid at or near market value for this area. However, it also showed maintenance staff and several administrators (primarily principals and assistant principals) to be significantly below market level.
In all, the salary survey called for an additional $130,000 in salaries, above and beyond the mandates set out by House Bill 1, to bring LISD staff in line with other districts.
The board did eventually agree to add certain pay increases to the budget, including an increase in starting pay for teachers to $36,350, a 4 percent increase for several administrators and a 6 percent pay increase for those workers in the manual trades.
However, a proposal to increase bonus pay for principals for earning “recognized” or “exemplary” TAKS ratings fell short.
Under the current policy, principals receive a $2,500 bonus if their campus is named “recognized,” and a $5,000 bonus for exemplary status. Four board members voted against the proposal.
The board also heard requests for capital outlay. The LISD campuses have requested nearly $400,000 in purchases for the coming year, including chairs and desks, computers, and repairs to the tracks and practice fields.
The budget is still being negotiated, and is expected to be in or near its final form well before the Aug. 21 public hearing.
In other business, the board had a lengthy discussion about the athletic department”s student handbooks.
Points of contention in the handbook included requirements for students at the junior high level to participate in two sports and concerns about student meals after away games.
According to boys athletic director Les Goad, students are asked to participate in two sports at the junior high level to allow the students to explore as many options as possible. Goad said he has found that students generally do participate in more than one sport, and therefore saw no reason to remove the stipulation from the handbook.
Of greater concern was the department”s policy about feeding students while teams are on the road.
Currently, the handbook provides that all students will receive a meal when traveling away from Lockhart to participate in a sporting event. It does not, however, spell out how much the department should spend for those meals, or how the meals should be served.
Goad said the generally accepted practice, which is included in a different handbook distributed to coaches at the beginning of the school year, calls for spending on an average of $4.50 per high school student and $3 per student at the junior high level.
“Last year, when we were forced to make the cuts, we didn”t change the wording, we just asked the coaches to tighten up the belts a little bit,” Goad said. “They were still feeding the kids after every game, but instead of taking them [out for fast food], the coaches were serving them sandwiches and the like.”
Most of the board members did not find this practice to be objectionable, but did encourage the coaches, and the community, to recognize athletes for their accomplishments.
Trustee Tim Juarez, who throughout the evening voiced several concerns about the wording of the handbook and the practices contained in it, abstained from voting.