Trustees approve tax rate

The Ector County ISD Board of Trustees approved an ordinance to set the total tax rate at $1.014 per $100 valuation during their meeting Tuesday night.

This includes $0.7596 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations, and $0.2544 per $100 valuation for payment of principal and interest on debts.

The total tax rate was $1.17 per $100 valuation.

Chief Financial Officer Deborah Ottmers said the debt service rate is about 6 cents higher than last year.

The district has a 20 percent homestead exemption.

Businessman Jeff Russell said tax decreases from the state have gone to increase the debt service rate and not back to the homeowners.

Russell said it sounds good, but taxpayers have been overcharged at a time when the legislature sought to reduce taxes.

“When I look at the rates … to go back to 2019-2020, we haven’t issued any additional rate, but our I&S rate has gone up almost 2 1/2 times,” Russell said.

He encouraged the board to true up the debt service rate and let everyone know what the bond issue is going to cost local taxpayers.

The board has called a 3 proposition bond for $436,109,000 that will not require an increase in the district’s total tax rate, a news release detailed.

Trustees approved a resolution for the defeasance and redemption of a portion of the following bonds totaling $34,435,000 for a savings of $6,137,250 in future interest costs, supplemental agenda material said.

  • It includes Unlimited Tax School Building Bonds, Series 2013; principal to be prepaid is $12,290,000 for a savings of $3,020,250.
  • Unlimited Tax Refunding Bonds, Series 2016; principal to be prepaid is $13,370,000 for a savings of $1,011,000.00.
  • Unlimited Tax Refunding Bonds, Series 2020-A; principal to be prepaid is $8,775,000 for a savings of $2,106,000.

Defeasance is a process borrowers can use to retire a bond early, according to the LoanBase website.

The increase in the debt service rate will allow the district to pay off its debt sooner and save interest, Ottmers said.

“You can only pay off callable bonds,” she added. “When you have that opportunity to save some interest it’s a good idea.”

Ottmers said the state is making up the difference in maintenance and operations.

There is a state constitutional amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot that will increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000.

If it passes, Ottmers said it could save the average homeowner $506 a year.

Ottmers said ECISD had about $134 million in outstanding debt a year ago. The tax rate will help bring that down to $83.5 million in total principal and interest at the end this school year.

Superintendent Scott Muri said what’s being sent to taxpayers is a little over 16 cent decrease in the tax rate. This is due to tax compression passed by the Texas Legislature.

In his opening comments, Muri congratulated his district team for earning two more awards – these given by the Mexican American School Board Association this past weekend.

One of the awards is for Outstanding Workforce Development Initiative for talent development pipelines and the second for English Language Learner initiatives, specifically the Emergent Bilingual Global Leadership program. Additionally, two ECISD students were selected to have artwork on display at the conference in San Antonio.

In public comment, three students who are part of the FFA program – Luis Perez, Ailani Castillo, and Evin Anderson – spoke to the board about their experiences in the program, the impact of FFA and the use of the Ag Farm facilities. They spoke of the wide range of agriculture science pathways that offer career options for them, and how involvement in the organization helps with their social, leadership and public speaking skills.

Christina Butler, FFA sponsor, thanked the school board for allowing the kids to address them.

Trustees reviewed a presentation of spring 2023 Panorama Data for School Connectedness. School Connectedness is the belief held by students that adults and peers in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals. It is one of the district’s Indicators of Success in the strategic plan.

More than 20,000 students in grades 3-12 across 38 schools took this survey last spring; they take the survey twice each year. Connectedness percentages are higher among elementary students than middle school and high school kids. Overall, ECISD’s Connectedness declined from 59% to 51%, and the work is now to understand the reasons for the students’ responses and help schools build a sense of belonging with students.

Trustees discussed 2023 College Career and Military Readiness (CCMR) results. Board Goal #3 sets a CCMR goal of 65% by May 2024, however, ECISD hit that target in May 2022 and is now pushing beyond that. ECISD’s new CCMR score is up 8 percentage points to 73%.

The state has specific guidelines that define College Ready, Career Ready and Military Ready. One year ago, a CCMR score of 60 was an A; this year the standard has been increased to 88. Due to that, ECISD’s improved CCMR score of 73% projects to be a C.

After a closed session, trustees voted 7-0 to uphold the Level II grievance decision.

Nov. 7 ECISD bond propositions

Proposition A – $424,263,000

  • New Career & Technical Education Center to be located in south Odessa/Ector County.
  • New middle school to be located in west Ector County.
  • Districtwide maintenance and repairs.
  • Transportation Department: bus purchases and a new Transportation Facility.
  • Technology Department: replacement of district phone system, PA/Bell/Clock/Fire Alarm system replacements; security camera refresh; classroom interactive flat panels; large group instruction area audio/visual equipment
  • Fine Arts Department: complete renovation of the Permian High School Auditorium; replace outdated instruments; performance risers for all middle school choirs; classroom instruments for elementary campuses; uniforms for middle school bands and mariachi; JROTC facility needs.
  • Transition Learning Center: compete replacement of facility for students with special needs learning to transition from school to the workforce.
  • Agriculture Farm: complete replacement of classroom buildings and barns.
  • Athletics: LED lighting at the Odessa High School baseball and tennis stadiums; LED lighting at the Permian High School baseball stadium; resurfacing of tennis stadiums at all middle schools; replacement of indoor bleachers in main gyms of all middle schools.
  • Land purchase for new CTE Center and new middle school.

Proposition B – $8,096,000

  • Ratliff Stadium: concrete overlay of bleachers; update restrooms; LED lighting for stadium parking lot; LED lighting at track/field event venue; air conditioning/heating for south building locker rooms; replace one grass field with artificial turf; (also includes any major maintenance needs at the stadium complex identified in Facilities Assessment report).

Proposition C – $3,750,000

  • New indoor practice facility for Odessa High School; new artificial turf for existing indoor practice facility at Permian High School (according to the law, these indoor practice facilities must be separate bond proposals for voters to consider.)