The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

April 10, 2013

Petition drive could help WISD join TVCC taxing district

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — A Trinity Valley Community College representative explained the financial benefits of Westwood Independent School District residents joining the TVCC taxing district during the WISD regular school board meeting Monday at Westwood Primary.

TVCC Palestine Campus Provost Dean Jeffrey Watson spoke to students, teachers and parents in attendance during the award presentation part of the meeting to discuss a petition drive to consider the possibility of WISD joining the TVCC taxing district.

“Texas community colleges are funded in part by local taxes. Trinity Valley serves Anderson, Henderson, Van Zandt, Rains and Kaufman counties, but not all of the areas served pay taxes to TVCC. Those students that do not live in the taxing district must pay an extra fee — out-of-district fee — to attend the college. Currently, Trinity Valley Community College charges students who do not live in the taxing district an out-of-district fee of $48 per credit hour,” Watson explained to the Herald-Press. “Since Westwood ISD is not in the TVCC taxing district, a student who earns the 64 credit hours required for an associate degree pays a total of $3,072 in out-of-district fees ($48 per credit hour). That is how much money would be saved by each Westwood student if the district votes to join the TVCC district.”

In addition, TVCC is governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees. If WISD residents join the taxing district at the full amount (8.9 cents per $100 home value) they also will have the right to be represented on the TVCC Board of Trustees. 

“Currently, Anderson County only has representation for Frankston ISD and LaPoynor ISD. So WISD would be the first in the Palestine area to have representation on the board,” Watson said.

The first step in the process is for a petition drive for WISD residents.

“If 5 percent of the registered voters in Westwood ISD sign the petition, the motion will go to the voters to decide if they want to join the TVCC district,” Watson said. “The petition drive is only for WISD and the petition signatures will be verified as only residents of WISD before the motion can go further.

If the petition succeeds with getting roughly 500 votes (a little more than 5 percent), the motion could be put on a ballot for November.

There are two levels of joining the TVCC taxing district:

• Maintenance Tax only — $0.05 per $100 of taxable property value ($50 per year on a home with $100,000 tax value); Allows students to attend TVCC without paying the “out of district” fees, but does not give the region representation or voice on the TVCC Board of Trustees

• Full Taxing District —  $0.089 per $100 of taxable property value ($89 per year on a home with $100,000 tax value); Allows students to attend TVCC without paying the “out of district” fees, and gives the region representation on the TVCC Board of Trustees.

At current tax rates, it would take more than 30 years of taxes for a property owner with a $100,000 house to pay $2,880 (what each graduate pays) in TVCC taxes.  

“Any family with a college student or future college student saves money by being in the district,” a TVCC news release said. “The decrease in costs to attend the college would encourage more students to attend and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a direct correlation between college graduates and economic growth for a community. That means the Westwood area could expect more economic growth potential as a result of annexation.”

Meeting Highlights

Also during the WISD meeting, the WISD Business Office was recognized for earning the “Gold Award” for transparency and efficiency for the third straight year.

Under the consent agenda, the board approved the following: minutes of the March 18 board meeting; March Tax Report and Quarterly Financial Report; second reading and adoption of Policy Update 96; revised Acceptable Use Policy for Technology; canceled the May election; approved the beverage contract with Coca-Cola Inc.

The May election was canceled because current school board member Kim Crawford withdrew her name from the election. All three candidates are unopposed so there is no need for an election. Incumbents Theresa Bambeck (District 3) and Dr. Carolyn Booker (District 7) and District 1 candidate Mike Bentley will take the oath of office at the beginning of the May board meeting.

In other action, the board:

• RECOGNIZED students and faculty

• APPROVED designating Scott & Strong as the district architect for “Phase 2013-24” of facilities improvements

• APPROVED budget amendments

• REVIEWED status reports for Campus and District Improvement Plans

• DISCUSSED preparations for the 2013-14 budget

• APPROVED summer school pans

• RATIFIED purchase of property next to Westwood Elementary

• TABLED light bids at the softball field