Committee discusses TRE budget priorities, high school options

Budget priorities for a tax ratification election and options for Ector County Independent School District’s overcrowded high schools were discussed at a Bond Advisory Committee meeting.

Superintendent Tom Crowe also gave an impassioned statement defending the progress his administrators, principals and teachers have made during his five-year tenure.

Crowe has announced he is retiring in December.

The district’s current total tax rate is $1.15 per $100 valuation. If the TRE passes it would be $1.22975 per $100 valuation.

An 8-cent tax ratification election would bring in about $11.4 million. Chief Financial Officer David Harwell said a TRE, plus an increase in property values would cost the average home owner $152.80 more a year. Of that $152.80, $89 would come in from the 8 cents.

He used an average home price of $170,687. Among districts of similar size, Harwell said ECISD was the only one with a $1.04

Budget priorities for a tax ratification election, if it passed would be:

A 2.75 percent raise for all staff, which would cost $7 million. In the current budget, Crowe said no raises are budgeted for anyone.

Fifteen buses at a cost of $1.5 million.

Restoring 20 percent of categorical and departmental allotments for $1 million.

If the TRE passes, nine elementary teaching positions will be budgeted at a cost of $550,000.

Supplemental middle school reading curriculum at a cost of $500,000.

Controlled access at campuses for $300,000.

Six police cars for $200,000.

Equipment upkeep and repair for $200,000.

Two lesson writers as recommended by WLK Educational Consultants. WLK conducted a curriculum audit focusing on kindergarten through third grade English Language Arts. Crowe said two lesson writers are in the district’s proposed budget.

An agriculture farm vehicle for $50,000.

If the board approves having a tax ratification election, it would be held Sept. 4, Crowe said Monday.

Possible options for Odessa and Permian high schools, which have around 4,000 students each, also were discussed at each table by committee members.

Some of the ideas discussed were the same as those from the last bond issue, such as converting Ector Middle School into a high school.

Some other ideas were to create freshman centers; build a high school dedicated to career and technical education; adding more middle schools; having one super high school; having micro high schools with 400 students or less; having ninth and 10th and 11th and 12th grade centers for each high school; a new high school on the north side; dynamiting Ector Middle School and building a new school on the south side.

Lisa Wyman, another committee member, said both a TRE and bond are needed, but she is fearful that the TRE is being rushed and asked about going for a bond and TRE together.

Crowe said that hasn’t been discussed because of the failure to pass both in November 2017.

Committee member Collin Sewell said lack of community support for a TRE could impact the superintendent search.

Shari Story, a member of the bond advisory committee and vice president and acting president of the local chapter of the Texas State Teachers Association, said she thinks it’s a good idea to separate the tax ratification and bond elections.

“We just have so many things we need — really need. I’m for both of them, but I think it would be good to separate them,” Story said, noting that this was her personal opinion.

Story said she thinks teachers would support a TRE.

“The taxes would be less than the raise, unless you have a really amazing house. I do disagree with a first-year teacher getting the same raise as a 30-year veteran,” she said.

Crowe emphasized that the teachers and administrators have worked their tails off in the last five years to reduce the number of schools on improvement required under state accountability regulations from 21 to the current eight.

Crowe said the district has opened three new elementary schools and two early college high schools and changed school boundaries twice without much public outcry. He added that a lot has been done in the last five years, but he’s not sure teachers and administrators have been given the credit they deserve for the progress.

Crowe said the district is not perfect and it’s not where it needs to be, but it is going in the right direction.

Sewell told those attending the meeting that they should all have a voice in the process and not be afraid to speak up.

“Tom really defended the success of his administrators, principals and teachers tonight. I absolutely embrace and support that wholeheartedly. What I didn’t want to have happen was that (in) his passion for their success to convey that all of a sudden if you had an opinion that didn’t support teachers that it would come across as if you were being negative and I would never think he would mean that, or think that he would mean to construe it, or convey it that way,” Sewell said.

“So that’s why I wanted to reiterate to the group, please you still have to have a voice even if you may not say it perfectly, you still have to have a voice so that we can find best solutions,” Sewell said.