The Gilmer School Board on Monday night employed a consulting firm to study the feasibility of an election on rearranging the use of local tax funds—a move aimed at possibly increasing state funding to the school district.
The board approved paying Walch Educational Funding, LLC of San Antonio $3,500 to determine whether such an election could result in the school receiving more state aid.
“We’re not saying we’re calling an election” for sure, School Supt. Rick Albritton told trustees, and on Wednesday he indicated to The Mirror that would be pointless unless it could result in more state funding.
Gilmer ISD’s property tax rate is divided into two parts—about $1.04 for maintenance and operation (M&O), and about 17 cents for “interest and sinking” (INS, which is debt service). According to Albritton, voter approval of increasing the M&O rate by 13 cents, and lowering the INS rate by that amount, might bring the school more state aid. (All rates are per $100 assessed valuation.)
“This is not something that increases taxes,” Albritton said. Ore City and Gladewater ISDs have passed such “tax swap” propositions, as have most schools surrounding Gilmer, he said.
Albritton told the board that under state law, $1.04 is the maximum rate the district can have for M&O without having a tax election. He also noted the state has reduced aid to the district, and that the school has had no tax increase since he became superintendent in 2002.
The INS rate has been 15 to 17 cents since voters approved a bond issue in 2004, although it was estimated it would rise to 28, Albritton added.
When Walch finishes its study, the superintendent said, he will make a presentation to the board on the practicality of calling an election. If one is called, and the proposition passes, Walch would receive up to another $5,000.
In other business Monday night, the board heard Albritton and Curriculum Director Sigrid Yates discuss a “Discipline Data Validation Report” GISD is making to the government because two Bruce Junior High School students had been assigned too many days in suspension.
Ms. Yates said the school had made “adjustments...(to) make sure that this doesn’t happen again.” Added Albritton, “We made two mistakes, and so we have to make this report because of it.”
The board also Monday canceled the May 11 school board election, as allowed by state law when all candidates running are unopposed.
As a result, board President Jeff Rash and incumbent Mark Tackett will be automatically reelected since they were the only candidates filing in the at-large race for their seats.
In another matter, the board heard agriculture science teacher Russell Thomas discuss activities of the local Future Farmers of America chapter.
He and student Corbin Johnson showed off the “Dr. Billy Harrell Award of Excellence” the local chapter had won Sunday at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. (See related story, this issue.) The award goes to the entrant with the best work ethic of the more than 500 schools participating, Thomas said.
“Kind of like the Heisman Trophy,” Albritton said.
Thomas also asked permission to consider forming an FFA “trap shooting” team, which he said is like skeet shooting. He said some students are interested in it, and that many college scholarships are awarded for the activity.
Students must be “hunter certified,” which involves gun safety; and supply their firearms, ammunition and entry fees, Thomas said. He asked permission to form the team if outside funding is available, and said the school would only be out travel and lodging expenses.
Thomas is to propose a handbook of rules and policies for the activity (which will not be a school course.) The handbook, like those for other extracurricular activities, will be considered by the board for approval this summer, Albritton said Wednesday.
The board also:
• Renewed its worker’s compensation coverage with Adminstrative Services for a premium of about $27,187, which Albritton said was about the same amount the school has been paying.
• Renewed its property/casualty coverage with the Texas Association of School Boards risk management fund for 2013-2014 for $83,236, which school Business Mgr. Beverly Grimes said was the same amount as the prior year.
Correction: An article in last Saturday’s Mirror wrongly stated Albritton was unavailable for comment that week on the upcoming board meeting as the school was on Spring Break. In fact, he worked during part of the Spring Break period and the error resulted partly because this Mirror representative had dialed the wrong number for Albritton’s cell phone.
The article also erroneously said the board was scheduled to consider Albritton’s contract Monday night. That resulted from a misunderstanding of a statement to The Mirror by a board member.