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Board discusses agreement with energy company

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LISD CFOLivingston ISD Chief Financial Officer Ben DavidsonFrom Enterprise Staff

November’s meeting of the Livingston ISD board was highlighted by an agreement with Lone Spur Solar Energy and a report on a recent Senate bill.  

During the public hearing, Kathy Mathias with educational consultants Moak Casey presented the application of Lone Spur Solar Energy LLC for an appraised value limitation on the qualified property, pursuant to Chapter 313 of the Texas Property Tax Code. Chapter 313 allows a school district to offer a temporary, 10-year limit on the taxable value of a new investment project in energy projects valued over $10 million.  

Invenergy, the world’s leading privately held sustainable energy company, has asked for 10 years for a limited value for up to a 105-megawatt solar power generation facility in Polk County and meets all requirements of the state comptroller. Mathias explained that a Chapter 313 must be located in a reinvestment zone. Polk County has already created the zone, but it must be created by LISD as well.  

The facility is targeted to begin operating between 2024-2025. The solar technology uses the power of the sun to deliver clean, renewable energy and is now one of the lowest-cost energy sources available. The estimated benefit to the district is $1.4 million over the next 10 years under the Chapter 313 agreement.

LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented an update on Senate Bill 1444, passed during the last legislative session allowing school districts to opt-out of Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Active Care for school employee insurance. The current plan is considered costly, with a participation rate of approximately 41%. Law states a five-year hiatus from the program when opting out of TRS.  

“Our claims are very high as a district of almost 600 employees,” Hawkins said. “A private carrier would not underwrite us and we were told the value that we receive from TRS Active Care is the best value for our employees due to these high claims. We can start to have conversations as a staff about how we can utilize the SHAC (School Health Advisory Councils) and offer opportunities for our employees that could start to impact our claims. If we can change our claim risk, then we could look at alternatives in the future and possibly improve our employees’ health benefits.”

Hawkins also gave an update on the district staffing plan.  

“The biggest challenge for schools today is staffing, and that is all schools everywhere,” he said. “We have to work together as a community to overcome staffing shortages, because the solution is one that everyone owns. Money will attract the employees to the job, but how the community treats educators can make a difference. Every employee is marketable, as we are seeing employee-driven markets. We were fully staffed on July 5, 2021, and today, we have five professional positions, two paraprofessional and two custodial positions open. We have 30 substitutes, but we need 60 substitutes in the spring to comfortably run the district or we run the chance of limiting student extracurricular experiences. Our staff is spread extremely thin. We have nearly 600 employees who are showing a lot of grit. I appreciate everyone working together.”

LISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) Report. The state’s school financial accountability rating system ensures that Texas public schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices. The district is rated on 20 different indicators, including budgeting proficiency, staffing ratios, and performance on the annual independent audit. Livingston ISD received an A or superior rating, and a perfect score of 100 by the Texas Education Agency.

The board approved items under the consent agenda, including purchasing three vehicles from Premiere Autoplex for $95,924, and district technology upgrades of Chromebooks and iPads in the amount of $600,784. Also approved was a 4% of the midpoint employee retention stipend for the 2022-2023 school year, to be distributed in August 2022.

Under action items, the board approved the following for Lone Spur Solar Energy LLC.

Ratified extension requests for the pending application.

Approved a resolution creating Livingston ISD Reinvestment Zone No. 1

Adopted findings under the Texas Economic Development Act

Approved the waiver of job creation requirement requested by Lone Spur Solar Energy

Approved the agreement

Approved the personal property early turnover resolution 33.11 Property Tax Code

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