Woodville ISD board looks at end of year data, declining enrollment

by Darby Kethan

Woodville ISD met in a busy July session. The Board looked at end of year data, including a concerning drop in enrollment.
Cody Jarrott reported on financial matters within the district regarding the closing of school year 2014-15. The district has ended the year having spent less (15M) than the anticipated budget of 17M. Tax collections have totaled 11M of 13M. Budgeted items for salaries and payroll in school year 2015-16 are anticipated to be less than last year. Board members commented favorably on the budget report.

Of concern to board and community members is the difference between the October reporting of 1,248 students enrolled and the ending enrollment of 1,223. Decreased enrollment impacts school finances through loss of revenue for average daily attendance payments from the state. Some possible reasons mentioned for the decline in attendance include parental mobility, temporary residence with relatives that end after the school year begins and the economy.

An increase in the price of adult meals served at WISD to $2 is necessary to cover the deficit in federal support for the meal program

The Code of Conduct for WISD will remain unchanged, and follows the TASB recommended policy. Some changes to the truancy section are anticipated in an addendum after the legislature makes decisions on that issue.

The board approved August 24, at 7 p.m. for the Public Hearing to discuss the district's proposed budget and tax rate for the 2015-16 school year. Immediately following the hearing, at 7:30 p.m., the board will have a called meeting to adopt the district's proposed budget and tax rate for the 2015-16 school year.

The board approved trustee elections on November 3, for places 3, 4, and 5 on the WISD School Board Applications for a place on the Woodville I.S.D. Board of Trustees election ballot may be filed July 25 through August 24, at 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Applications may be filed by mail or in person at Woodville I.S.D.

Glenn Conner presented the superintendent's report on facilities, legislation, upcoming opportunities and other information. Roof repairs on the transportation facility are on schedule and should be completed by the end of July. The football field construction project is going well and may be completed ahead of schedule. Workers are currently completing the large drainage system and setting goal posts. Campuses are being cleaned with additional work outside the buildings being done as well.

August 24 begins the first week of the new school year, with professional development for staff and budget workshops for board members.

Surplus WISD property is available, including lot items on a pallet (buy all items in a lot) and a trailer and bus, through a "sealed bid garage sale", with items available for "come and see" view. Bid packets can be obtained at the WISD Administration Building and interested parties can view items at the WISD Transportation Building during business hours Monday-Friday .

The Intermediate School Improvement Plan requested by the board will address areas of academic concern at the 3-5 campus. Areas to be covered include data analysis, time lines for gathering and reporting information, consideration of effectiveness whether contracted services are being used most efficiently and effectively, reading interventions, goal setting, changing school culture, teacher "walkthroughs", student "walkthroughs", and team teaching. These results will be presented to and discussed with the board.

Spurger Superintendent dies after cancer battle, Zeller named as interim

by Emily Waldrep

Spurger ISD Superintendent died Sunday, July 26 at his residence after a courageous battle with cancer.
Fisher served in the U.S. Navy for five years in the Persian Gulf and for the past ten years, served as principal and superintendent at Spurger ISD. He also served as a Deacon at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper and was a member of several organizations, including the Texas Association of School Boards.

Fisher voluntarily resigned from his Superintendent position on Tuesday, July 21 and Chuck Zeller will be serving as interim Superintendent for Spurger ISD in Fishers absence. According to friends and family, Fisher loved sports, fishing, travelling, and spending time with family and friends. Fisher left behind a son, as well as a host of family, friends and co-workers.
A military Graveside service was held for Fisher on Wednesday, July 29 at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery in San Antonio, in addition to a Celebration of Life Service on July 28 and a visitation for friends and family on July 27.

Spurger Board approves district wi-fi upgrade

by Emily Waldrep

Spurger ISD School Board held its regular meeting on July 16 at 7 p.m. in the John Mooney Hicks Administration Building on campus.

After the consent agenda was approved, the board heard the tax appraisals district representative Rusty Roberts report to the board. Roberts reported that the certified tax roll will be given to the district on July 25 and that the district would also begin interviewing for a new appraiser on August 10.

Next, the board changed the date of the August regular board meeting to August 27.

In other business, the board approved the quarterly investment report, approved the proposed tax rate for publication and approved TASB as the provider for property, casualty, auto and liability insurance in the 2015-2016 school year.

The board also voted to move money from the fund balance to Function 51 to upgrade the districts wi-fi network. The total cost to upgrade the network came in at $31,285. E-rate gave the district $17,954 to help cover the cost, so the board approved to move the remaining $13,330 to upgrade the wi-fi. According to the board, the upgrades will make the wi-fi faster, prepare the network for future growth and set up better security and a better firewall for the district.

Finally, the board called for a Special Called meeting on July 21 at 7 p.m. to discuss the voluntary separation agreement or contract with the Superintendent as well as to discuss an interim superintendent contract.

Woodville Council approves Fire Truck lease-purchase

by Darby Kethan

Woodville City Council began with a prayer and with pledging the American Flag. All council members were present.

Entergy representative, Sam Bethea, presented information regarding Ordinance 20150313-1 which proposed rate increases by Entergy, and asked the council to deny their request. This is to allow Entergy to go to the PUC with a single request for rate increases rather than adjudicate the individual cities one-by-one. Although an average nine percent rate increase is requested, riders and other sources will reduce the actual increase to about 5-5-1/2 percent. Included is planned expenditures by Entergy is 234 M for purchase of an existing natural gas facility in Arkansas, and 29 M for capital improvements.

A request for Walt Davis Drive street closure during the time of the Woodville United Methodist Church Vacation Bible School, August 3-7, from 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. daily was approved.

Mayoral appointments to the 2015-2016 Budget Committee were Herb Branch and Janice Weatherford. During two workshops with city employees, they will review and discuss salaries, major expenses, capital expenditures and help develop a proposed budget for the city council to approve.

The council approved awarding GLO Ike 2.2 New Water Well and related improvements bid package "B", plant, control and line construction contract to low bid of $399,394 submitted by Duplichain Contractors, Alto, Texas. This bid is for the construction of a plant, controls, and water line for a new well at the Industrial Park. The Council awarded bids for drilling the well at this location in May. The well will serve as a backup for the Gib Lewis prison facilities.

This project is to be funded with a disaster recovery grant and bids for the project came in higher than the grant amount originally allocated to the City. DETCOG approved an additional $136,500.00 in recaptured, unused disaster recovery funds for this project. The allocation of these additional funds will cover the shortfall for this project and permit the City to complete construction without any local match of funds.

The council approved a recommendation from Senior Project Engineer Danny Hays with KSA Engineering to postpone work on the Beech Street culvert construction project for 4-6 months. There were only two bids submitted and the engineer felt this was a result of contractor backlogs caused by the recent rainfall. The two bids received were significantly higher than the engineer's cost estimate for the project. The council approved the rejection of both bids.

The purchase of a new Fire Truck for $315,000 was discussed. The council approved resolution No 20150712-2 regarding a contract for the purpose of financing a fire truck. The options before Council were to approve a lease/purchase agreement, or a cash purchase using General Fund reserves. A lease/purchase agreement was proposed rather than a cash purchase due to anticipated decreases in projected revenue for the General Fund and the low interest rate that was offered. The lease/purchase will cost approximately $5,000 per year (2.98 percent annual interest rate) for the term of the lease, which is 5 years. The truck may be purchased for $1 at the end of the lease. The council elected to hold on to the cash and finance for 5 years using the lease-purchase option.

The opportunity for individual city council members to serve on the TML (Multi State Intergovernmental Employee Benefits Pool) commission was declined.

Approval was given to an engagement letter from Alexander, Lankford & Heirs, Inc., to conduct the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year Audit.

Continuation of the Expanded Enforcement Program was approved by the council. As presented by Police Chief Scott Yosko, this is a continuation of an existing, successful program for expanded law enforcement in the city. Officers currently employed by the city may work additional hours for the department during their official time-off periods, and provide traffic control services which support the officers on duty. These citations enable the Police Department to collect approximately four times what the officer costs are, adds to individual officer's income, and increases police visibility in the city. Participation by officers in this program is voluntary.

Judge Judith Hayney reported 89 traffic violations and that the average driver cited is going between 15-30 miles over the posted speed limit at the time they are stopped.

Mayor Fortenberry presented for discussion his concerns about the current ban on drilling private water wells in the city limits. Regarding Ordinance no. 20150713-3, an ordinance amending section 66-36 subsection (B) of the code of ordinances, City of Woodville, Texas, he is asking the council to consider amending the existing ordinance to allow private wells for watering lawns and for purpose of irrigation only. He urged the council to "weigh economics with liberty", and wants "incrementally to restore liberty to our citizens" through his proposal. During the discussion, concerns regarding this proposal were voiced by council members and city officials and included the possibility of cross contaminating our existing water systems, the impact of other wells on the city's water source, the financial loss to the city and the amount of time required to enforce the new policy if approved. Sprinkler and irrigation systems within the city currently provide $35K in annual revenue, with Wal Mart being the largest consumer of such water. The Woodville school system will be reducing sprinkler/irrigation water usage with the installation of artificial turf on the athletic field. Herb Branch commented, There was no action taken on the matter.

Mayor Fortenberry proposed consideration for approval Ordinance No. 20150713-4, an ordinance amending section 50-10 of the code of ordinances, City of Woodville, Texas, by deleting certain provisions . The Mayor proposed changing the existing city ordinance regarding burning leaves on property within the city limits. The state prohibits all burning in cities. The state further authorizes cities to permit certain burning such as small fires for warmth, cooking, and ceremonial events. The mayor proposes to allow burning of leaf and limbs on property within the city limits as long as permission from neighbors has been secured. The mayor's stated reason for requesting this change is to, "provide a reasonable amount of liberty to our citizens." The council members and city officials discussed that the city currently provides a free leaf and limb pick up for no additional cost to residents. Thus, burning "vegetative material", leaf and limbs, (all other materials are banned by the State) is unnecessary. Concerns about the impact on neighboring home owners and danger of fire-related accidental burning were expressed. Police Chief Yosko expressed concerns that the additional increased responsibility of policing of property owners who do not follow the rule or accidentally allowed fires to get out of control would be additional burdens for police officers. The council did not act on the proposal.

Mayor Fortenberry proposed making a change to the existing system for building fee permits and plan review schedule. His proposal is to encourage construction in the city by charging the currently existing fee with the change that when the owner gets a certificate of occupancy, then 75 percent of the fee charged will be refunded. His purpose in making the proposal is to use fee reductions as a "marketing strategy" to make building in the city more attractive, drawing more residents which will increase city revenues. Discussion about this proposal included City Manager Risinger's comments that currently tax abatements are considered and negotiated, if appropriate, in each specific situation and are based on the return of investment to the community. Concerns were expressed by council members and staff that plan review and inspection services were contracted services and the permit fees charged merely cover the City's cost for these services. If refunded, the City would still be responsible for these expenses and would essentially be subsidizing the costs associated with plan reviews and inspections for new construction with property taxes collected from existing property owners. Council members felt this process would be unfair to existing property owners. This proposal was not acted upon. Mayor Fortenberry commented on the discussion by saying, "We will continue to discuss this."

Colmesneil declines Entergy rate change

by Michael G. Maness

Colmesneil city council declined approval of Entergy Texas' proposal for changes in rates at the council's regular meeting Tuesday evening, July 14.

Mayor Don Baird convened the meeting on schedule at 7 p.m. and took citizen comments.

Citizen Billy Andurs stepped forward and kindly requested the city look into getting some kind of law officer, not a fully credentialed police officer, but someone to enforce city codes and such. He was particularly concerned about trash and neglected areas. One place of concern was a residence just outside the city limits that seemed to be excessively junky. Baird reflected his same concerns and his attempts to get a resolution with the Tyler County Judge and others. To date, there appears little anyone can do with property outside the city limits.

Entergy Customer Service Representative Sam Bethea was present with a large box of fresh peaches that he and his wife had purchased from a fund raiser. He shared the fresh peaches with all, and they seemed to be just right for munching. Bethea addressed the rate increase and options the council had. There was an advantage, it appeared, to the council declining the request, which would allow Entergy to bundle the cities together in a group presentation to the Public Utility Commission. Bethea favored the city's declining. The cities that opted to delay would bring forth a 90-day automatic suspension.
The proposed increase in rates would come to about 9 percent across the board.

Entergy had purchased a $75 million 500 megawatt gas turbine plant at a remarkable bargain, for perhaps as much as 50 cents on the dollar. It was up and running, too, which allowed immediate benefits of power that would not be present in the time it took to construct a new power plant. This plant also came with millions of dollars of improvements.
The council quickly agreed to decline any approval of a rate change.

In other business, the council approved the financials and the city secretary's office report.

The water damage from the frog in the A/C drain was fully covered by insurance, and they were waiting on determinations for the storage area so they could combine construction on that with the new carpet and repairing the water damage.