RISD makes no changes to property tax rate

by Cristin Parker news@mediactr.com

Rusk Independent School District’s trustees opted to keep its tax rate the same as last year, during a board meeting held Monday, Aug. 13.

Board members unanimously approved to keeping the district’s proposed property tax rate for the 2018-19 fiscal year at $1.04 for maintenance and operations and 0.1125 cents for interest and sinking, for a total of $1.1525 per $100 property tax valuation – the same rate as last year.

“We want to maintain what we’ve been doing,” Superintendent Dr. Grey Burton said during Monday’s meeting.

The district’s tax revenue will increase this year, as property values are up by more than 4 percent, according to the Cherokee County Appraisal District.

Board members set a public hearing concerning the 2018-19 proposed budget and tax rate for 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 27, at the RISD Administration office, 203 E. Seventh St., Rusk. The public is welcome to attend.

In other business, RISD trustees retired into executive session to consider a compromise settlement agreement between the district and Linda and Alfred Harris. After less than an hour of discussion, board members reconvened into open meeting and approved the agreement.

Dr. Burton confirmed the Harris family brought “instructional concerns” about an individual student to the district’s staff recently Burton was unable to share specific details of the settlement, including whether or not a monetary settlement was offered, other than to say, “the settlement was multifaceted.”

Board members also approved adding the position of human resources director to the RISD compensation plan, after discussing the matter in executive session.

RISD board members also on Monday received updates on the CTE facility and the baseball-softball field projects from Dr. Burton.

“The CTE facility is coming along,” Burton said. “It looks like it’ll be ready by the time school starts, so it’s going well there.”

He said plans for the ball field project had been approved and project officials with Berry & Clay Construction are already seeking bids for the work.

“We’re hoping, if all goes well, we’ll be able to get on the field by December,” Burton said.

Burton also presented a tentative student attendance plan to board members.

“This is a work in progress,” Burton said. “Right now, we’re at about a 95 percent attendance rate, but we should be closer to 98 percent. I want to work with our principals to offer positive incentives to get kids in school.”

Burton said with each percent the district’s average daily attendance falls, RISD loses an estimated $100,000 in state funds.

“But it’s not only about the money,” he said. “We want kids to be in school.”

Burton said one of the proposed incentives to make sure students attend school is to partner with local law enforcement officials and fine parents after a student incurs 10 unexcused absences. He also said he wanted to make sure the plan clearly defined excused and unexcused absences.

“Would this be something we’d implement next year,” Board President Britt Patterson asked.

Burton said each campus would begin the new school year by tracking attendance for the first few weeks of school.

“Once the information is out there, we’ll know better where we need to shore up and then we’ll implement an attendance plan a couple months after the year starts,” Burton said. “At that point, we’ll start fresh and student absences will go to zero.”

Board members took no action on the proposed attendance incentive plan.

Items RISD trustees approved during Monday’s meeting include:

- a memorandum of understanding for the dual credit program and math and English language arts prep courses with Tyler Junior College; and

- resignations and hiring of employees.