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Second special session underway

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From Enterprise Staff

Eliminating the state property tax and providing lasting property tax rate cuts are on the agenda for the second special session of the Texas Legislature, Governor Greg Abbott announced Tuesday.

“We achieved a great deal during the 88th Legislative Session that I have signed into law, including laws to provide more than $5.1 billion for border security, hold rogue district attorneys accountable, and add $1.4 billion to make schools safer, but the job is not done,” Abbott said. “I am bringing the Texas Legislature back for Special Session No. 2 to provide lasting property tax cuts for Texans. During the five-month regular session, the Texas House and Texas Senate both agreed on cutting school district property tax rates, while the House wanted to add appraisal caps and the Senate advocated for increased homestead exemptions.

“The Special Session No. 1 agenda was limited to the only solution that both chambers agreed on – school property tax rate cuts. After yet another month without the House and Senate sending a bill to my desk to cut property taxes, I am once again putting the agreed upon school district property tax rate cuts on the special session agenda,” Abbott said. “Unless and until the House and Senate agree on a different proposal to provide property tax cuts, I will continue to call for lasting property tax cuts through rate reductions and working toward eliminating the school property tax in Texas. Special sessions will continue to focus on only property tax cuts until property tax cut legislation reaches my desk.”

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Exciting lineup planned for 2023-2024 season

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From Enterprise Staff

Memberships are available for the 2023-2024 season of the Livingston Community Concert Association. An exciting lineup is scheduled for the upcoming season which marks the organization’s 38th anniversary (1985-2023). It includes: Key of G Live!; Sounds of Silence Tribute; Southeast Texas Swing Band; The Suits; and Bennie & the Jets.

Key of G Live!, a tribute to country superstar Garth Brooks, will kick off the season at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12. The group is led by AJ Bisto on lead vocals and guitar and backed by a six-piece band of drums, fiddle, bass, steel guitar and keys. This concert captures all of the signature sounds that Garth Brooks fans know and love and pays tribute to the chart-topping artist in classic country music style.

The second concert of the season is The Sounds of Silence Tribute at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 17. This tribute journeys back in time to the 1970s Greenwich Folk Village Scene to a timeless era of music when lyrics and melody meant something more. Award-winning musicians Steven Delopoulos and Johnny Phillips are known for their unique sound, energetic live shows and introspective lyrics underscored by their remarkable musicianship. Their concert features the music of Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Cat Stevens, Don McLean and more.

Rounding out the Christmas season will be the local Southeast Texas Swing Band which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9. The local group will bring a Christmas special you won’t want to miss as they usher in the Christmas season.

Kicking off the new year will be The Suits, who are slated for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 17. The Suits are four dynamic gentlemen performing four genres of hit music across four decades. The group fuses smooth choreography and tight harmonies with exciting showmanship and fun audience interaction and take audiences on a journey from the 50s through the 80s. The repertoire features recognizable hits like “Oh What a Night,” “My Girl,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and more.

The final show of the upcoming season will be Bennie & the Jets, the premier Elton John tribute, at 7:30 p.m. on March 9. Led by Greg Ransom on piano and vocals, this group has performed around the world for a variety of audiences. In honor of his 2022 farewell tour, this concert offers audiences the opportunity to relive Elton John’s iconic catalog of music, including “Candle in the Wind,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Rocket Man.”

Memberships are available at varying levels: Adult $50, Family $110 (two adults and children), Patron $150, Sponsor $300, Benefactor $500 and Endowment $1,000-plus. Checks may be mailed to Livingston Community Concert Association at P.O. Box 960, Livingston, Texas 77351. All concerts are held at the Polk County Commerce Center located at 1017 Hwy. 59 Loop North in Livingston. For additional information, contact Sally Frasier at 936-967-0219 or visit www.livingstoncommunityconcert.org.

The Livingston Community Concert Association is the fruition of an idea of Jo Nevins and her family 38 years ago that was discussed with Sherry Peterson Foster, Debbie Haynes Jenke, Nell Franklin and Miriam Young. The idea grew into a community dream come true. While there were just a handful of patrons then, there are now over 368 patrons, endowment contributors, benefactors and sponsors and over 217 members of the Livingston Community Concert Association, Inc. The organization has made a tremendous impact on the community with years of outstanding musical talent and musical education for both adults and students.


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Rotary foreign exchange student heading home

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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Ben from GermanyBen from GermanyBen, a foreign exchange student from Germany who attended Livingston High School this past year, will head home to Germany on July 5. Ben came to Livingston through the Rotary International foreign exchange student program and lived with three local families over the past year. Ben spoke to the Rotary Club of Livingston Thursday.

This wasn’t Ben’s first program for Rotary. He also addressed the club last fall when he introduced himself. He is from Gttingen, a university city in Lower Saxony, central Germany, and he said the population is about 118,000. He said the Max Planck Institute for Science and HAWK University are both located there.

“We have a beautiful city scape. I had a really nice life there,” he said. “Germany is a middle big country in Europe. We don’t really have the best history. We have had some dictatorships. But we have some good parts. We have a really good healthcare system and all that stuff.

“The wall fell in 1989 and that was a really exciting step in our history. We came together as one country again, not divided. It was a hard time for our country but now we’re all together,” Ben said, adding that there have been a number of people from his country to win the Nobel prize.

As for his time in Texas, Ben said, “I’m so grateful for the Rotary Club and for this opportunity. I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned during this journey.”

Although Ben “graduated” in May with Livingston’s senior class, he said that there are 13 grades in Germany so upon his return home, he will be returning to school.

When asked what he will miss the most about the U.S., he said Gatorade. As for other things he’s experienced in the states that Germany doesn’t have, Ben said he enjoys Cajun food, specifically crawfish, and also barbecue brisket.

“I’ve gotten used to the Texas heat and I like it. We have more rain than heat,” he said.

Ben said that Germany has something called a “culture year,” similar to what is called a “gap year” in the states. Upon finishing school in Germany, he said he will probably use that culture year to travel. “I may go to Asia and South America and places I’ve never been. Experiencing different cultures is a passion of mine.”

Ben said he is looking forward to seeing his family and friends but that he definitely plans to return to Texas in the future to visit.


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LISD to extend employee contract of athletic director

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Livingston ISD LogoBy Brian Besch
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The Livingston ISD School Board decided on a contract extension and cosmetology lab Monday evening in the district’s administration building.

The board unanimously accepted the recommendation of superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins to extend the employee contract of athletic director and head football coach Finis Vanover. The contract will run until Dec. 31, 2024. 

Vanover has guided the Lions for the last five years, compiling a 19-33 record. They were district champions in 2020, Livingston’s only football title in 50 years.

Also accepted was a cosmetology lab that will take the place of students traveling to East Texas Cosmetology.

“We are at $130,000 for 13 students to complete a program,” Hawkins set of the funds dedicated to cosmetology education. “There is $9,540 of books and kits that we have to buy. The state exam is $2,100, so the grand total cost is $131,700. We also have the driver expense, as well as the expense on our vehicle, for a total of an additional $36,000. That is a gross combined expense of $167,000.

The district also calculated the costs of 15 students taking the course in a lab set up by the school. There are startup costs, like fees for Texas Department of Licensing, pumbing, carpet removal and concrete finishing. 

The superintendent said there is a teacher who has expressed interest in teaching the class, and based on her experience, there is an estimate of just over $58,000 for her salary. Combined, Hawkins said the new lab would total for about $119,000 for 15 students, while the total was $167,000 for fewer students.

“Really, it would be a cost-saving deal and I think it would be a situation where we can grow our program.”

The cosmetology lab would be placed at the baseball/softball complex, contingent on licensing. Hawkins said he could envision the program growing to 30 students and needing an additional teacher over time. Funds from CTE and other grants will also be used to fund a portion of the lab. 

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County continues to eye budget, salaries, expenses

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6 29 Com

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Another budget workshop was on the agenda for the regular meeting of the Polk County Commissioners Court Tuesday in which the Court discussed the fiscal year 2024 budget development; proposed salaries, expenses and allowances of elected officials for fiscal year 2024; and capital purchase projections.

“July 25 is when we will have the final numbers,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said, adding that Polk Central Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Chad Hill has presently been unable to give numbers due to the large number of protests the appraisal district is hearing.

“We know Polk County is growing and residential development is exploding. I-69 is here. We currently are in the process of building the I-69 loop around Corrigan. It’s knocking on our doorsteps on both ends. We know that I-14 is coming so we know that we have got to make a commitment to our residents. We owe it to our residents to have good infrastructure, good development and to continue to maintain our quality of life,” Murphy said.

“This Court has made every effort to ensure good quality of life. And we will continue to. The development that’s occurring in Polk County is going to have a very big impact on our school districts. We need to remember this is not a money-based budget, it is a need-based budget. We will continue to look at long-term projections for Polk County. We know that interest rates are increasing. We’ll keep an eye on that. Hopefully, the economy is stabilizing a little bit,” Murphy said.

The Court designated Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Dubose as the second Polk County representative to serve on the rural transportation planning organization with the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG). Dubose will join Murphy who currently serves as an I-69 representative on DETCOG’s rural transportation planning organization.

Additionally, Murphy asked Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis to serve on the Texas Department of Transportation’s rural transportation planning organization.

The Court awarded the bid for the Corrigan Sub-Courthouse renovation, including remodel and disposal of construction debris, to Truline Construction of Livingston. Truline’s bid came in at $130,840 and will be paid from the restoration project funds.

In old business, the Court discussed and approved Option 1 for the employee health coverage (major medical) for fiscal year 2024. “There had been some discussion with TAC (Texas Association of Counties) about having a dual option because those who had their spouse or family on it really took a hit with the increase in cost. Moving forward with the current proposal is not sustainable,” Murphy said.

In personnel matters, the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted by department heads since the last meeting.

Fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments were approved, as presented by the county auditor’s office.

The Court issued a proclamation designating July 3-8 as Youth Rodeo Week in Polk County.

Additionally, Murphy congratulated Precinct 1 Commissioner Guylene Robertson for recently being honored for her community service by the Management & Training Corporation which operates the IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility.

Murphy also apprised the Court that the Rotary Club of Livingston recently presented the 100,000th book to a child in Polk County through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and R.E.A.D. Inc. (Reading Encourages Advanced Development), the Polk County sponsor of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Items on the consent agenda included:

Approval of the minutes of the June 13 meeting;

Approval of the schedules of bills;

Approval of an order designating surplus property;

Receipt of the county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to Local Government Code Sec. 114.025;

Receipt of and record personnel action forms submitted by elected officials since last meeting;

Receipt of commissioners’ annual road reports pursuant to Texas Transportation Code Section 251.005;

Receipt of treasurer’s monthly report for May; and

Approval of the bi-annual agreements with Deep East Texas Council of Governments for emergency 9-1-1 services – public safety answering point services and automatic location maintenance service beginning Sept. 1, 2023 to Aug. 31, 2025.

Rev. Brian T. Wharton of First United Methodist Church of Onalaska opened the meeting with prayer.


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