The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

August 27, 2013

Palestine ISD adopts budget, keeps same tax rate

By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Palestine Independent School District’s Board of Trustees adopted its 2013-14 budget and tax rate during a PISD meeting Monday, following a public hearing.

The total $32.1 million budget includes a general fund budget of $26,164,040, food service budget of $1,775,000 and a debt service budget of $4,259,522.

In order to maintain those figures, the court adopted a tax rate of 1.566 per $100 of valuation — the same tax rate adopted in 2012. This includes a $1.17 tax rate for the purpose of maintenance and operations and $0.396 for interest and sinking for the total $1.566 tax rate.

“You will notice the motion language for setting the tax rate contains the words ‘effectively increases’ regarding the tax rate. This language can be deceptive, causing some to think we are raising the tax rate, which is untrue,” PISD Director of Business Services David Atkeisson said. “This particular language is required by law, however, because, through a series of calculations — mostly due to a slight increase in local property values — our proposed tax rate is slightly higher than our calculated effective tax rate. This should not be confused with the rollback rate. We would not be required to conduct a rollback election unless we were to adopt a rate of $1.596459.”

The budget include a a small bump to employees to adjust the salary scales due to an increase in insurance rates.

“Our insurance rates have increased for the third year in a row,” Atkeisson said. “We wanted to help our employees but were dedicated to balancing the budget without cutting any services for students.”

Atkeisson described the 2013-14 budget as a “sound budget.” If tax collections for the year were to fall short of expectations, Atkeisson said the district could choose to use a portion of the fund balance, if needed, due to a particularly tight debt service budget.

“Mr. Atkeisson put in a lot of hard work and always has a conservative approach to the budget. We have a great group of administrators right now and when we said they may have to come back to us on a few things (that couldn’t go in the budget as of yet), they have been very patient with us,” Marshall said. “We wanted to make sure that our property tax rate would not go up.”

The $1.566 tax rate has not gone up and has been the same for the past two years, Marshall explained.

In other action, the board:

• RECOGNIZED Summer Accelerated Reading Team. Northside Primary School Principal explained how the school’s AR program was expanded through a joint project with the Palestine Public Library.

“A large number of Northside and Southside students participated. It was wonderful that the library and school district worked together to help our little ones over the summer,” Dutton said.

• RECOGNIZED Technology Staff for iHeart Conference. The education technology conference was held Aug. 8 at PISD, featuring 200 participants, 30 sessions and 30 speakers.

• HEARD financial update.

• HEARD report on summer safety improvements. Atkeisson said the district was wrapping up its summer safety projects, including door replacements for outer doors and finishing up securing the entrances for Story Elementary School, Palestine Junior High School and Washington Early Childhood Learning Center. These campuses were not included in the bond improvements.

“I have the confidence that we are doing everything we can to insure that our students are safe here in Palestine, Texas,” Atkeisson said.

• APPROVED consent items.

• APPROVED 2013-2014 Campus Improvement Plans.

• APPROVED Honors Classes for 2013-2014.

• APPROVED Adoption of Early Reading Standards Plan for 2013-2014.  

• APPROVED  2013-2014 Professional Development Plan.  

• APPROVED 2013-2014 Wellness Plan.  

• HEARD report on 2012-13 PISD Academic Accountability Rating (see story breaking down the data in Wednesday’s edition).

• APPROVED approval of teacher shortage area stipends for 2013-2014.

• APPROVED hiring professional personnel.

• HEARD Superintendent’s report on first day of school report, including enrollment and the extracurricular update on the televised football game.