LIVINGSTON -- The Livingston City Council appointed Marion A. “Bid” Smith” as a new alderman during a special called meeting on Tuesday to fill the position left by the incoming city manager.
Smith, a Livingston native and former Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector, was sworn-in as alderman Tuesday to fill a vacancy on the council that was created by the resignation of Bill Wiggins, who will become city manager starting Oct. 1. Smith will serve the remaining term of the position until the next city election in May 2018.
“On behalf of the city council, we are so pleased that Bid has accepted the appointment. Bid understands the meaning of public service and brings his level maturity and responsiveness to which we are accustomed on the council. We look forward to his input and participation in the coming months,” Mayor Clarke Evans said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Smith graduated from Livingston High School as valedictorian and later graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in business. He served as the Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector for 20 years, retiring from that position in 2012. Smith is married to Grace, his wife of 36 years, and is an active member of the Livingston Lions Club.
“I would like to thank the Livingston City Council, mayor and city manager for giving me the opportunity to serve as interim city council member,” Smith said. “I will give you the best of my ability in order to serve all of the citizens of Livingston in a fair and responsible manner. I am proud to say that I have been a lifelong citizen of the city and look forward to serving on the council to keep our city safe, progressive and stable.”
LIVINGSTON -- The Livingston Independent School District’s Board of Trustees was presented with a report on enrollment fraud and approved changes to its dual credit program during its September meeting.
LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented the district’s Enrollment Fraud and FDA Policy. Administrators have recently met to discuss the digital vision in student learning from the student aspect, personnel aspect and ancillary aspect.
That vision includes the possibility of using digital forms for the registration process. One of the advantages is the ability to track the forms. The mobility rate of students transferring in and out of LISD students is near 20 percent.
“We have students wanting to come into the district that are not residents. According to policy, students must meet one of several criteria under FDA (local) before they are admitted or allowed to stay in LISD. They must have resident parents, be grandfathered in as an approved transfer, must be classified as homeless, or resident minors living apart. If the student does not live in the district the transfer policy is the only way to attend LISD,” Hawkins said.
“Transfer status is dictated by capacity which is a factor for enrollment.” Hawkins added. “Capacity may be classified as classroom availability but can also apply to personnel available to teach classes. The district has a clear policy and as a district, we will follow that policy to ensure that the resources by the taxpayers of LISD are directed appropriately. Those that break policy are subject to fines and penalties accordingly.”
During admin reports, a short video introducing Advancement Via Individual Development (AVID) was presented. The program is currently being utilized by the district and is designed to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in college. The program places special emphasis on growing writing, critical thinking, teamwork, organization and reading skills.
LISD Athletic Director Brian Broussard provided information on UIL junior high baseball and softball programs during the fall season. UIL allows 12 games and two tournaments a year. The closest schools currently participating in this program include Lufkin (6A) and smaller schools like Onalaska (3A.) Budgeting would have to be considered for equipment, travel expenses and coaches. Each coach currently employed at Livingston Junior High School instructs three different sports.
LISD Chief Curriculum Officer Janan Moore gave a curriculum update and presented the beginning-of-the-year report on the SRA (Science Research Associates) Reading Mastery program for 2nd through 5th grades. The program is used at each of the three elementary campuses and the intermediate school.
“There is a loss of retention over the summer so principals have assessed students and rearranged the groups where they can receive the biggest benefit of the program,” Moore said. “Corrective reading is implemented in the third grade to help students with reading difficulties move up to the proper grade level. It focuses on helping students with reading skill deficits and aides with intervention.”
Teachers report SRA results every five weeks, at minimum. Principals review SRA data once a week and regroup students with like skills. Outside tutors are brought in to help with the interventions.
“We have chosen Lead 4ward to address interventions and teaching strategies. District assessments will be more defined in scope and sequence. They are now based on units that need to be covered and will allow unity with teachers,” said Moore.
Changes to the LISD Dual Credit Plan in conjunction with EIC were approved by the board during the action agenda. The changes would allow students in the Class of 2022 to increase enrollment from one to two courses of dual credit during their freshman year. The plan is the final piece that would allow students to earn 60 college hours paid for by the district.
“We have a plan in place that will allow the students of our community an opportunity to obtain half of their college coursework by the time they receive their high school diploma. This program has the potential to save the parents of Livingston literally thousands of dollars by cutting the cost of college in half for LISD students,” the superintendent said.
Action items also approved during the meeting included the quarterly investment report, reflecting a $16,020,606 balance as of Aug. 31 with $48,362 of interest earned during June, July and August.
The purchase of a chiller from J.C.I. for $457,800 for the Livingston Junior High campus was approved, along with a budget amendment in the amount of $458,000 to make the purchase.
Items were approved under the consent agenda included minutes from the previous board meeting, the financial statement and payment of bills, personal property donations, purchases over $25,000 and an overnight trip by Livingston FFA.
LISD employees Shea Gibson and Kim Stanley were inducted into the prestigious Apple Corps.
Campus recognition was given to Pine Ridge Elementary for TEA Academic Achievement in ELA Reading, Timber Creek Elementary for TEA top 25 percent in closing performance gaps and top 25 percent in student progress. Livingston Junior High was recognized for TEA Academic Achievement in Science and Mathematics.
CORRIGAN -- A 2017 tax rate of $0.513 per $100 in assessed value was approved last week by the Corrigan City Council during their August meeting.
City Manager Darrian Hudman requested rate to support the city’s new budget. It includes $0.406 to support the maintenance and operation fund and $0.107 for the interest and sinking fund, which covers the city’s annual debt.
Council approved the rate without comment.
Mayor Pro Tem Earlie C. Baldwin chaired the meeting. Mayor Johnna Gibson and Johnnie Mae Brooks were absent.
Hudman, in the absence of Police Chief Darrell Gibson, described the “demo” Tahoe police package vehicle available to the department. They will trade in one of the troublesome Chevrolet Caprices, purchased several years ago when the Ford Ltd. became unavailable. Council approved the lease purchase agreement.
After a brief discussion, council voted to engage Linebarger Coggan Blair and Sampson, LLP for collecting the city’s delinquent taxes. This does not cost the city, as they will receive their payment from the state-mandated penalty funds applied to these accounts. Council then voted to sever their contract with McCreary, Veselka, Bragg and Allen, P.C., which had been their collection agency.
Municipal Court Judge L. Wayne Yankie reported only one alcohol-related case in July, with 48 misdemeanor cases, one city ordinance violation, and 699 traffic violations adjudicated. Yankie reported that he now has a warrant officer working half time and so far, he has been very productive in serving process on wanted subjects. To date, it has cleared up 57 open cases.
The police department made 32 arrests, issued 1,237 citations, responded to 216 calls for service and performed 1,341 building checks. A total of 18 new cases were worked and 26 were forwarded to Polk County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. There also were four accidents with no fatalities.
Council approved the minutes from the July meeting and reviewed the financial reports for that period.
During items from council, councilmember Michael Nobles informed Hudman that even though he had been told the garbage placed in his existing bin would be collected, it has not been done. He was told by the garbage collector they would not pick it up from the container. Hudman said he would get it ironed out with the management at Piney Woods Sanitation.
GOODRICH -- The Goodrich ISD Board of Trustees was presented with budget estimates for the district’s major construction project and approved a proposed tax rate to be discussed during a public hearing set for Thursday, Aug. 24.
During its last public meeting Thursday, representatives from Cox Contractors presented budget estimates and options on the upcoming construction project that was approved by the 2016 bond election. The project involves the construction of a new science lab facility, updated roofing on five existing buildings and window replacement on the historically-designated school building.
The estimates are based on preliminary plans and instructions provided by architecture firm, Goodwin, Lassiter and Strong in coordination with roofing consultants and the Texas Historical Commission. The new 4,650 square foot science lab building will match the existing library with metal roofing and wall panels, brick accent, two lab classrooms, two single occupant restrooms, corridor and storage room. The minimum budget estimate for the science lab is $775,000, with a maximum amount estimated at $825,000.
The roofing replacement will consist of a new 60 mil single-ply PVC roofing membrane with a 20-year warranty installed at the new elementary, cafeteria, field house, administration building and staff gym building. The minimum estimated budget for that project is $165,000, with a maximum estimated amount of $185,000.
Window replacement on the old school building will involve three options, with the first option based on the district’s decision to keep designation by the Texas Historical Commission. The remaining options have a lower estimated budget, but would not comply with the historical commission’s standards to keep the designation marker.
The first option consists of selective replacement based the historical commission’s involvement. This includes replacement of the rotten/damaged wood at the window sashes, re-glazing and replacing broken panes and repainting of the window. The minimum estimated budget is $280,000, with a maximum estimated amount of $300,000.
Option two involves removal of the existing windows and replacing them with an all vinyl insert replacement with simulated divided lite inside the glass panels, using Low-E coated glass. The minimum budget estimated is $180,000, with a maximum amount estimated at $190,000. The third option consists of the removal of the existing windows and replacing them with aluminum storefront. The storefront windows would be white factory finish with simulated lite for the full opening size.
All option estimates do not include any interior finish work and damage to the wall framing. A significant portion of this work will not be quantified until the existing walls are opened to review the extent of water damage. The estimated budget of $150,000 should be added to any of the available options.
Cox Contractors are expecting completion of the entire construction project by fall 2018. During the action agenda, the board officially approved a proposed tax rate and set a public hearing to adopt the rate and the final 2017-2018 school budget. The meeting will take place Thursday, Aug. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Goodrich ISD Administration Building.
The proposed rate includes a maintenance and operations tax of $1.17 per $100 is assessed value and a school debt service tax of $0.1609 per $100.
The proposed budget includes a 5.12 percent increase from last year in maintenance and operations and a 13.23 percent increase in debt service.
Also during action items, the board moved forward with a financial agreement to purchase a new Chevy Suburban SUV that would be utilized only by administration staff. The total price of the SUV will be $39,715, with four annual payments of $11,153 at an interest rate of 4.821 percent.
The board also approved the 2017-2018 Student Handbook, Code of Conduct Handbook and T-TESS Appraisal Calendar during action items on Thursday.
LIVINGSTON -- Past problems with the tax foreclosure excess fund account have been resolved and local school districts are now receiving their share of the money, Polk County commissioners were told Tuesday.
During the commissioners meeting, County Court at Law Judge Tom Brown, District Clerk Bobbye Richards and local accountant Brian Jones presented a report on the tax foreclosure excess fund account as well as a check for over $110,000.
Brown explained that major problems within the account led him to appoint Jones as a special master to work with Richards to resolve the issues and that today, those problems have been resolved. The account in question contains the “excess funds” received when a tax foreclosure property sells for more than the amount of the taxes that are due. Under the law, the previous owner can claim these excess funds within two years.
The district clerk’s office holds these funds in a special account and after the two years have elapsed, is supposed to disburse the “excess” amounts to the taxing entities that held an interest in the property.
However, in 2014 the county’s school districts came forward with complaints that they had not received their share of those funds for years. Eventually the issue resulted in the resignation of former
District Clerk Kathy Clifton in 2015 and the appointment of Richards to solve the problem.
“We owed the school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Brown said. “It was a real mess and we’ve been working to straighten it out.”
The judge praised Richards and Jones for their work in establishing a system to prevent this problem from occurring in the future.
“Bobbye has put in new procedures and I can tell you that we are now completely in compliance with the tax code,” Brown added.
Richards then presented the county the check, which she described as the last of the “big checks,” adding that the local school districts, the Polk County Fresh Water District #2 and the city of Corrigan also were receiving payments to bring their excess funds up to date.
“From now on we will be making payments quarterly,” she said.
Jail medical care During the meeting, commissioners reviewed proposals from three companies seeking to provided medical care in the Polk County Jail.
The county expects to spend about $550,000 on inmate medical care by the time the current budget year ends on Sept. 30 -- almost $80,000 over the budget -- and sought proposals from companies to see if there might be a more economical way of providing the required service. However, the proposals submitted would add over $1 million to the cost.
While agreeing that the system needs improvement, commissioners decided to look at alternatives such as increasing the jail’s medical staff from the current two, obtaining the services of a full-time physician’s assistant or working with the local hospital. Murphy agreed to explore those options and report back to the court at a later date.
Other business During the meeting, the commissioner also: Approved an agreement with Goodwin Lasiter and Strong to provide engineering services for the Taylor Lake Estates road erosion project being funded under a National Resources Conservation Service grant.
LIVINGSTON -- Final tweaks were made to Polk County’s proposed $30.1 million budget Tuesday before it was released for public review and hearings were scheduled to receive comments on the spending plan and the tax rate needed to support it. Members of the Polk County Commissioners Court held a budget workshop at the end of their regular meeting to review changes made in recent days as more accurate information on expenses and income became available. Under state law, commissioners were required to take a recorded vote on the proposed tax rate for the coming year, although final adoption of that rate will not occur until after two public hearings. The four commissioners and the county judge all voted for a proposed tax rate of $0.6461 per $100 in assessed tax value -- which is the same rate the county used to support the fiscal year 2017 budget. However, because the rate is higher than the effective tax rate of $0.626602 per $100 in value, by law this constitutes a tax increase and public hearings must be held. The “effective” rate is essentially the amount the county would need to generate the same income as it did during the prior year. The public hearings on the proposed tax rate will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22, and at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, in the commissioners courtroom on the third floor of the Polk County Courthouse in Livingston. A final public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12, also in the commissioners courtroom. Commissioners are then expected to adopt the budget, which will go into effect on Oct. 1. A copy of the proposed budget is expected to be posted this week on the county’s website at www.co.polk.tx.us .
Although not part of the official budget, commissions reviewed and made changes to the capital expense requests made by the various departments. Normally, during the course of the year as major purchases are made for vehicles, computer equipment and other items, the amount is added to a continuing resolution and at the end of the year the court approves issuing seven-year tax notes to reimburse the general fund for those purchases.
County Judge Sydney Murphy said that during the coming year, they are anticipating some major purchases that would mean a higher than normal reimbursement. She noted County Clerk Schelana Hock has requested new voting equipment to replace the equipment purchased in 2006 for which parts and maintenance are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
Overall, a total of $1,270,338 in possible capital purchases were submitted by the various department heads for the coming year -- including about $600,000 for the new voting equipment.
Murphy indicated she was not comfortable with a figure that high and suggested it be cut back to about $1 million and the four commissioners agreed. After discussing it with the various department heads, the commissioners agreed to cut back on the number of vehicles it would purchase for the sheriff, maintenance and county agent departments.