The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 13, 2013

Westwood ISD pondering joining TVCC maintenance tax district

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Trinity Valley Community College representatives explained how the Westwood Independent School District could eventually join the TVCC maintenance tax district — saving out-of-district fees for local students in WISD — at WISD’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday.

WISD Board Vice President Dr. Carolyn Booker suggested the board look into joining the TVCC maintenance taxing district at its Jan. 14 meeting after hearing about the out-of-district costs for the dual credit program WISD students utilize.

TVCC Vice President of Instruction Dr. Jerry King, TVCC Palestine Campus Provost Dr. Jeffrey Watson and TVCC Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Wendy Mays explained the multi-step process during Monday’s meeting.

According to the Texas Education Agency, in order for a school district to come into a taxing entity, first a petition has to be held in order to get the opportunity to place the item on the ballot. The petition has to get signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in the last regular election.

Once the petition is achieved, it has to be submitted to the TVCC Board of Trustees, who will develop a service plan that will outline how TVCC would serve the area, as well as provide information about the taxing rates and expected income. The plan would outline how much out-of-district tuition rates are versus what they would be if WISD would be in the TVCC maintenance tax district.

At least 30 days after this service plan is prepared, TVCC would host a public hearing on the matter in the Westwood area.

Forty-five days after the public hearing, an election can be called to put the item on the ballot.

“I see this process taking 60 to 120 days, so realistically, it would have to be a November election due to all of the steps involved,” Watson said.

Originally, WISD board members were hoping the item could be placed on the May 11 election ballot.

Currently, a student in WISD pays $48 per credit hour for being out of district. For example, the 42 students currently enrolled in the dual credit program through WISD, if they were taking six classes for the whole year each, the amount of savings for being in the maintenance tax district versus out-of-district would be around $36,000, Watson said.

A full-time student taking 64 hours to receive a degree would save $3,000 in out-of-district fees over the long run, Watson said.

The cost to taxpayers in the WISD would be $0.05 cents per $100 evaluation of their home’s value. A home valued at $84,000, for example, would pay an additional $42 in taxes for WISD being in the maintenance tax district.

“There is a large economic advantage for the residents of Westwood,” Watson said.

Booker expressed the desire for the school board to pursue the process.

“There are a lot of advantages for our district. There are things TVCC is offering that we can’t take advantage of because of the cost, that we could if we were part of this. Plus, with our dual credit partnership with TVCC, it would only enhance that relationship,” Booker said.

Currently, Palestine Independent School District is the only school district in Anderson County to be a member of the TVCC maintenance tax district. Other school districts in adjacent counties where TVCC campuses are located also are members of the TVCC full tax district.