ECISD board approves partnership contract

A possible $50 million investment in a proposed solar project for Ector County in return for a tax abatement was presented at a recent Ector County Independent School District work study session.

Jason Garewal, director of project development from a firm called 174 Power Global Corp. and Kirk Glasby of corporate tax consulting firm DuCharme McMillen & Associates introduced themselves to the board.

The item was discussion of conducting a public hearing on the application of the Oberon Solar Project, which would be run by 174 Power Global, for an appraised value limitation on qualified property, under Chapter 313 of the Texas Property Tax Code. The appraised value limitation is the form the tax abatement would take.

This is just the first step in the process and it has to go before other government entities, as well.

The Texas Comptroller’s website said an appraised value limitation is an agreement in which a taxpayer agrees to build or install property and create jobs in exchange for a 10-year limitation on the taxable property value for school district maintenance and operations tax purposes.

The minimum limitation value varies by school district, the site said.

The application for a limitation on the appraised value for maintenance and operation purposes is submitted directly to the school district and requires an application fee that is established by each school district, the site said.

The project could be an investment of $50 million dollars and could be operational by 2020, the board recap said.

On a separate item at Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a request to notify the Texas Education Agency that the district may enter into a contract with a third-party on improvement required schools.

Supplemental agenda material said “while the district does not to commit to whom we are partnering and we may determine later not to partner with anyone, we must submit the attached Letter of Intent to keep this option open.”

ECISD has eight campuses on improvement required status under state accountability standards. Ector Middle School and Noel and Zavala elementary schools are in their fifth year of improvement required. If they do not come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.

The board also approved a local campus partnership application, so the district can access the benefits under Senate Bill 1882, which allows for the partnerships. Trustees have previously heard a proposal from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin to make Ector Middle School and Zavala in-district charter schools with a science, technology, math and engineering focus.

Other possibilities mentioned in the application are Odessa College and Texas Tech University. The action was taken during a board work study session Tuesday.

The application was developed locally based on a sample provided by the Texas Education Agency to be completed by potential partners. The approval includes the stipulation that minor modifications may be made by the school board president in conjunction with the superintendent and legal counsel.

On a separate item, trustees discussed an agreement for the construction and lease back of a Boys and Girls Club to be located adjacent to Edward K. Downing Elementary School and results of a YouthTruth Student Survey.

Trustees also heard a presentation on a possible new solar project near Penwell and the process of applying for E-RATE funds to revamp the district’s fiber network.

Chief Operations Officer David Morris said the club will be an 8,000-square-foot facility that will be leased back to the district for $1 a year for 30 years.

David Chancellor, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Permian Basin, said the club would serve youngsters in West Odessa and can become a hub for four schools in that part of the county.

Chancellor said the building, paid for through donations, will cost $1.6 million and have a $400,000 endowment. He said they are about $80,000 short right now, but everyone has said yes to the project.

The hope is to break ground this summer and have the facility completed by this time next year, Chancellor said. It will have a capacity for about 150 youngsters, but will serve about 500 students a year.

Superintendent Tom Crowe said the club would use the Downing Elementary gym.

On a separate item, Crowe reviewed highlights of the YouthTruth Student Survey, conducted in November 2017.

The executive summary said the survey covered students’ perceptions of their school in terms of student engagement, academic rigor, relationships with teachers, relationships with peers, school culture, college and career readiness and academic support services. Students also provided feedback about student motivation, the summary said.

Crowe said the response rate was 50 percent. He added that this will be a three-year process and campuses will pick out one or two things that would improve their school.