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LISD to decrease tax rate

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Livingston ISD LogoThe Livingston ISD school board approved a lower tax rate for the 2022-23 academic year Tuesday during the monthly meeting for August.

LISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson reviewed the Livingston ISD 2022-2023 proposed budget during the public hearing. The general fund revenues are projected at $42,500,734, and expenses are projected at $40,687.424. 

LISD anticipates a budget surplus at year-end. These funds will be rolled into the fund balance and earmarked for use to extend the initiatives funded by the ESSER program. The ESSER program is an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant program that was created for Coronavirus aid beginning in March 2022. 

The instruction function is budgeted at $23,095,000 for the 2022-23 school year and is the largest under the maintenance and operations budget. The board approved the budget as presented.  

Davidson also presented the proposed tax rate for the 2022-2023 year during a public hearing.  The proposed rate of 0.942 for maintenance and operations and 0.19 for debt service, with a total of $1.132 per $100 valuation was approved.  This represents a decrease of 8% from the 2021-2022 tax rate, at 1.2369 per $100 valuation.

LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented an administrative report on school start accountability.

“First and foremost, thank you to the board for the things you did to make sure our school was fully staffed. The projections for hiring for the school allowed us to hire pools of staff in the spring. Designating my hiring authority allowed us to hire staff quickly instead of waiting until a board meeting to approve the hiring.  Recruitment and retention of staff doesn’t happen without the best salary package for our staff. We have the best salary package anywhere in rural East Texas. It requires a lot of tough decisions that had to be made along the way. Because of our designation as a District of Innovation, we are able to start school earlier. In starting school earlier, contracts are locked in earlier and allow us to lock in before other schools, which is very important. Having the ability to add breaks for our staff in the school calendar helped us attract staff. Being able to offer something other than compensation, the breaks offer something more to our staff.

“I applaud (accounting specialist) Mrs. (Kathy) Perry and her department for working through the summer to ensure 4,015 kids were registered by the first day of school. It was smoother this year, and we will continue to work to make that process better for our students, staff, and parents. The changes we made to the school calendar only allowed us five days to have everything ready, including getting our staff back to start school. It takes about three days to work out bus issues after the start of school. We continue to work together to improve and make things better. According to the Texas Academic Performance Report on the Texas Education Agency website, our LISD teachers are paid more than the state average.  Our administrators, central office, and principals are paid under the state average. We look to Splendora ISD in our market. Their administrative cost ratio is at .106 while Livingston is at .063. This means our administrative staff covers so much work for much less expense.”
Hawkins pointed out a return to normalcy with the high school campus holding a pep rally. It is the first pep rally in 3 years due to covid restrictions that have been in place since the pandemic began. The senior class is the only on campus that has attended a pep rally, and the event was a first for the freshman, sophomore and junior classes.

“Some colleagues are celebrating their state accountability rating right now, and it’s their end all, be all,” Hawkins said. “Our students are more than a test, and they deserve more. We start off the year and don’t know what their score is. We want our staff to know what their score is. There are flaws in the system. K-8 basically revolves around the STAAR test. One test on one day determines the students’ success or failure. There are three areas of accountability, student achievement, student progress, and closing the gaps. There are flaws in the system, and I expect it to be discussed in the next legislative session.

“Our local accountability, our vision, is making our students future-ready. We want our students to graduate with industrial certifications, career and technical certifications, or college credits to ensure their success after graduation. On the TEA website, you can go all the way back to 1995, and our rating has been a C or academically acceptable. Today, the district is rated with a B, and it is the highest rating LISD has ever received. Three elementary campuses received an A rating, and the fourth is only three points from receiving an A.

“The campus we are standing on today (Creekside) was in the bottom 10% in the state of Texas and today received an A rating with four designations. There has to be a level of optimism about what we are doing in the district. We continue to focus on building relationships and making sure our students are learning deep levels of the curriculum. We have a lot of progress we can make. For the first time, we have five students who graduated in May with 58-77 college hours, there were over 1,000 hours earned in college dual credit, 40 students in the Dual Credit CTE program, and 350 certifications given to the Class of 2022. We still have work to do to continue to improve, but I want to celebrate what our staff has done because it is a breakthrough, but we are just getting started.”

Under the consent agenda, the board approved an overnight spring trip for the band. LHS band members have plans to make a student-funded trip to Orlando, Florida, during spring break to participate in Disney’s Imagination Campus Soundtrack Sessions, a Performing Arts workshop in a Walt Disney World location. The board also approved the purchase of two 2023 Ford F-150 trucks from Tipton Ford in Nacogdoches for $60,320 and I-station Reading and Math curriculum materials in the amount of $57,859.94.

The meeting opened with student recognition.  The Livingston Lions Tennis team presented members of the school board with a sign in appreciation for the updates made to the tennis complex over the summer. In the spring, LHS varsity girls tennis were the 21-4A district team champions for and also the girls singles district champion for 2022.

Also recognized by the school board were Lu Allen and Destiny Gist for winning third place in public policy advocacy at the National Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America held in San Diego, California, in July. They, along with their advisor, Laura Gokey, represented both the LHS and the state FCCLA chapter at the national competition.  

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