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LISD to secure plans for athletic facilities

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Livingston ISD LogoFrom Enterprise Staff

During a special meeting of the Livingston ISD school board, Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented a report on the capital facilities plan for the district. Included in the report was the facilities’ age and life cycle.

“In the current budget we’ll roll $1.8 million into the fund balance because they are ESSER funds that were supplanted in the fund balance to be used at a later date for staff salaries,” Hawkins said. “The facility committee has reviewed our fund balance. We are a Chapter 42 district, and there is not a Chapter 42 district that has had the financial success that we have had in the last 10 years. I’m very proud of this accomplishment.”

Hawkins said the district’s current fund balance is at $28 million, compared to a $12 million balance in 2014. The Texas Education Agency recommends that three months operating expenses remain in the fund balance. He said the district has been focused, disciplined, and good stewards of the tax dollars. There are also assigned monies available for improving facilities.

“Raise Your Hand Texas is a public advocacy group set up by H.E. Butts, and they researched the 2019-2022 school years,” Hawkins said. “LISD receives a basic allotment for every student who attends the district. The state is prepared to increase the basic allotment of $100 per student. Fifty percent of the increase in basic allotment will go to employee salaries. With this increase, it would only allow about a 1% cost of living raise, which doesn’t cut it. There is a 6% increase in inflation over a two-year period in fuel, insurance, construction costs, and operating expenses — and significant, substantial increases in electricity costs. We need a $1,000 per student basic allotment to keep up with the past two years of inflation.

“Our state officials are focused on vouchers to be used in private education, instead of helping all students across the state by increasing the funding in public schools. By neglecting the impact that inflation has on our Texas school districts, they are forcing districts to cut costs. This could result in cutting programs or raising student-teacher ratios because there’s not a lot of fluff in any school budget when you’re looking at 80% staffing costs, which is found in every school district. The legislators have $30 billion that they could use to help public schools. We’ve been through tough times before in the state of Texas, and we have to balance the budget while meeting the needs of the district. I’m just not sure we have seen the state with money and allow districts to go through tough times.” 

The superintendent said he would look to the board for direction and vision on the district facilities plan.

“We have to have a vision for the next 10 to 20 years, and we need a plan. We have started a project at the high school. I’ve been asked numerous times how much it will cost to finish the project. The field at Lions Stadium is starting to need work. The facility committee asked me to have the engineers and architects review Lions Stadium. They looked at the stands, field, and the scoreboard. We don’t need to be spending money on the facility when we don’t know what the longevity is. In the master plan, we would like the completion of the high school stadium, and the current Lions Stadium could be reclaimed for safer, more efficient parent pickup for Cedar Grove students. Eventually, our district is going to grow, and this would allow expansion room.”

Hawkins said he could secure estimations on the projects. He feels parking at the high school would be the most expensive part of the project. In the facility committee, there was a discussion about using the fund balance versus a bond.

“If you’re looking to pay for this one piece at a time, it takes longer to accomplish,” Hawkins said. “If you’re looking to do it sooner, there’s no way to do it without a bond successfully passing. Sports bonds are not very high in the probability that they will pass. This is the trend across the state. You need to be able to have a committee to advocate for the bond. With our recent billion-dollar value increase in our county, it would be an uphill battle for the success of a bond, even though the football stadium was built in 1937. All school bonds payoff in 2038. I predict that the dynamics of Interstate 69 will increase the growth of this community, and the district may find that an additional school will be the district’s great need, and you will have to go out for a bond for the construction at that time.” 

Remedial action will be required on the football field before the 2023 football season begins. The board agreed to move forward in securing an architectural plan in transforming the Cochran Complex (soccer/track facility at the high school) in phases and to prepare a construction timeline to finish it out to also use as a football stadium.

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