The meeting began with the oath of office being administered to Tania Moody and Treva Potter who both run unopposed in the May election.
Following the oath of office the board elected officers for the 2018-2019 school year. Tania Moody was elected President, Rusty Gibson elected Vice President and DeEtte Edens was elected as Secretary.
Carrie Ellis was named as the delegate for the 2018 TASB Delegate Assembly.
Adam Walker with Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins and Mott, LLP spoke to the board concerning delinquent tax collections. That firm serves as the representative for delinquent tax collection for Levelland ISD and other taxing entities in Levelland and Hockley County. Tax liens are attached to all property in Hockley County on January 1st of each year, tax appraisals are sent out by end of April and Tax statements come out in the fall. Taxes are considered delinquent on February 1st of the following year. 2018 taxes will be considered delinquent as of February 1st of 2019. The legal team starts work in June. They will work the larger accounts first. The firm works approximately a month and a half before the district reports tax numbers to the Texas Education Agency. After three letters have been sent and they refuse to pay it is then sent to litigation and legal action will be taken. Walker stressed that the law firm is firm but will treat taxpayers with respect. Walker reported the firm currently has $217,251 remaining to be collected from the 2016 taxes. The 2016 turnover was reduced over $236,626 in the first nine months of work by the firm for Levelland ISD. He also reported that 11% of the delinquent tax roll for Levelland ISD is tied up in bankruptcy cases and those are slow to collect. Currently the firm is at a 52% reduction on 2016 taxes, approximately $200,000 of the 2016 tax roll is tied up in bankruptcy.
The board received a report from Mike Sapia from the technology department concerning a server failure two weeks ago. He reported that the district is looking at upgrading to a different type of system which will help prevent the same thing from happening again. The estimated cost is $55,000. the question was asked if speed would be affected with the new method, he said no not going this method. The storage area network was eight years old at the time it failed. He noted that in 12 years the district has never had a server failure. The end of life had been reached. Going forward the district will replace equipment before it reaches end of life or when it reaches end of life. It was noted that no data was lost, the district was able to restore mission critical information to function until the end of school. School Administrators praised Sapia for his work to restore the data within 48-72 hours and for his work to find a more economical solution. It was questioned on backup for the district, they backup locally and then back up to the Region 17 service center and they back up to the Region 18 service center.
The board held a public hearing on the federal and state funded program applications in 2018-2019. It was noted that the funds received through federal and state programs have tight restrictions on what it can be used for.
The board also approved consent agenda items. Included in the consent agenda was a 2% increase for 2018-2019 year which is based on the Consumer Price Index. This is an estimated 5 to 6 cent increase in meal costs.
The board received and approved the monthly financial report.
The board also received an introduction to Tax Ratification Elections. Why is a Ratification Election Needed? The state is not increasing the school finance funding formula causing school districts to use local funds to keep up with inflation. A Tax Ratification Election could allow the district to generate additional funds to pay from current revenues certain existing project needs such as repairing, building or acquiring school buildings, other equipment ;and expenditures as determined by the district to conduct public school. It was noted that funding per student through Average daily attendance has not increased since 2009. There are two main components for school district funding including state aid and local property taxes. If property taxes are up then state aid will go down so basically the revenue received doesn’t change. The only way to increase revenue is to pass a TRE which allows the district to access additional pennies which increases the overall allotment the district is eligible for. A question asked is what has the district done to reduce local operational costs? Between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018 the following budget reductions have been made:
Reduced staff by 40 positions district wide (only through attrition)
Non Payroll/Debt Expense items-14-15 was $6,014,367 and Budgeted 17-18 was $5,995,464
Although district costs have gone up tremendously during the four year period, cuts were made to Non Payroll Items as opposed to cutting more staff to protect the integrity of the academic framework.
District did not increase salaries in 2014-2015 or 2015-2016. It was noted that the turnover rate of employees has remained fairly unchanged and maintains around 17%. Superintendent Jeff Northern noted that some districts have a 30-35% turnover rate.
The district has also paid off all M & O debt.
The district is proposing moving two cents from the Debt Service to Maintenance and Operations which will allow the district to have access to the extra pennies. The two cent tax swap would generate $215,000 and additional state revenue would generate an additional $341,000 which means a total of $556,000 in additional revenue generated for Levelland ISD. This is all done without increasing the OVERALL Tax Rate. It was noted that out of 4 counties around Hockley County, we are the only county which has not held a TRE election. It is necessary at this time in order for the district to stay competitive with the other districts. Levelland, Sundown and Lubbock Cooper are the only districts in the four county area which have not held a TRE election.
It is also very important to remember the ONLY component controlled by the district is the tax rate they do NOT control the appraised property values. Appraised property values are set by the Hockley County Appraisal District and when they go up taxes will go up. The only influence a taxing entity has on the tax amount is setting the rate and each entity appoints two members to the appraisal district board. It is also important to note that appraised values are based solely on sales of equal property in the area.
What will the money be used for:
Increasing Instructional and Non Instructional Pay. The district is looking at a 2% pay increase based on the midpoint of the pay scale which will be approximately $1,000 per year.
Priority facility and asset projects such as new school buses. The district has several buses which have exceeded the recommended replacement and need replacement. There is also an activity bus which is 15 years old and has problems and is breaking down on extracurricular trips. The district is also looking at entering into an agreement with Enterprise to put new travel fleet plan in place for vans and suburbans used in the district as well as maintenance fleet vehicles. There are several small projects that are in need of attention across Levelland ISD and deferred maintenance regarding items as HVAC units, roof repair and etc. that needs to be addressed. Without the TRE the district will be looking at approximately a $500,000 defecit and a $900,000 defecit in 2019-2020. The board would call the election in June and host the election in August. It was noted that Frenship and Lubbock ISD have recently held these elections and Levelland ISD has gotten advice from those districts as well as others. School Administrators feel this is necessary to put the district in the best possible place moving forward.
The board approved adopting a proposed tax rate of $1.388 based on the certified estimate of taxable property in the district.
The board also approved Credit by Exam assessment in order to allow a student to skip a grade level.