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The Palestine Independent School District board of trustees approved a proposal during Monday’s meeting to lower its portion of the property tax rate for the 2021-22 school year.

If the proposal is approved during the official vote, which is currently scheduled for the Aug. 16 board meeting, the rate will drop nearly 6 cents to $1.3468.

At this rate, the owner of a $100,000 home or business will pay roughly $1,350 in school district property taxes.

The proposed rate includes a reduction on the interest and sinking tax rate, i.e. the debt incurred via the 2009 bond. That portion of the proposed rate would be 32 cents.

According to the district’s chief financial officer, David Atkeisson, this would mean a drop of 22 cents since the bond was established.

The proposed rate will be posted for two weeks prior to the official vote.

Other budget components presented by Atkeisson included the general fund budget, proposed to be $200,000 less than last year. Last year’s number was $35,400,000.

According to Superintendent Jason Marshall, this would mark the first time in 10 years the general fund budget would be lowered from the previous year.

“This is the first time, in at least my 10 years here, that we have budgeted for less revenue than we did the year before,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the change comes as enrollment has dropped. He believes the drop can be directly attributed to COVID-19.

Free lunches for all students

The nutrition fund proposed budget would remain the same at $2,015,700 and all students will once again be able to eat at no cost courtesy of the Community Eligibility Provision. This means students meal costs from the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch program will be reimbursed to the district from the United States Department of Agriculture by way of the Texas Department of Agriculture. The 2021-22 school year will be the second year of a five-year term for the program.

Other helps for families include school supply lists that do not require sanitation items or requirements for providing extras of particular items like Kleenex. Current PISD school supply lists can be found at http://www.palestineschools.org/page/dis.schoolsupplies.

Calendar change

The board also approved a calendar change which will create a half day on Sept. 24, the end of the first six weeks. This half day will allow teachers to prep for using newly purchased software and technology designed to help make up for learning gaps coming off of a year full of coronavirus obstacles.

The technology was purchased with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER III). The funds are a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The Texas Education Agency allocated the first two-thirds of the nearly $8 million designated for PISD.

Vote on homeschool students

During the meeting, the board also voted to not allow homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities in the district. Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 547 into law in June allowing for this option, but with the local districts able to make the final call.

Important dates

The board also addressed approved days and times for upcoming events for the new school year. Those activities include:

  • Palestine Junior League Back to School Fair from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Aug. 7 at Palestine High School

  • Convocation at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 at PHS auditorium

  • Teacher workdays on Aug. 10-11

  • Meet the teacher events for staff from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and for parents and students from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Aug. 10

  • First day of school on Aug. 12

Recognizing taxpayers

At the beginning of the July 19 meeting, the director of PISD’s public relations, Larissa Loveless handed out certificates to the PISD top ten taxpayers for 2020. Brenda Walker of Oncor Electric Delivery, Hope Randon of Sanderson Farms and Marlon Wilson of Energy Transfer Fuel were on hand to accept certificates on behalf of their companies.

The other top ten included Walmart Stores division store, Walmart Real Estate Business Trust, Walmart Stores East, Union Pacific Railroad, Lowes of Palestine, MPT of Palestine-Lima LLC and GVD Willow Creek LLC.

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