• October 23, 2019

PAC announces support for ECISD tax ratification election - Odessa American: Ector County ISD

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PAC announces support for ECISD tax ratification election

County education leaders asking residents for 13-cent increase in property tax rate

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  • Odessans for Education

    Members of Odessans for Education stand in front of the media at a press conference held by Odessans for Education at the South Forty banquet Room at the Barn Door Steakhouse Tuesday.

Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2018 5:03 pm

Odessans for Education, a political action committee, announced its support Tuesday for Ector County Independent School District’s tax ratification election set for Nov. 6.

The announcement was made by Collin Sewell and Lorraine Perryman, co-chairs of Odessans for Education, at South 40.

The ballot language will list it as Ector County Independent School District Special Election, Ector County Independent School District Proposition A. And it’s the last item on the ballot, Perryman said.

“We are not only wholehearted supporters, but advocates for making sure that we give Odessa the best chance it can have at an amazing education for 33,000 young men and women. We know that Odessa continues to grow, and in the past has seen continued ups and downs in our economy. The one thing that has stayed true is that our student population has continued to grow year over year, in spite of the fluctuations in our adult population,” Sewell said.

ECISD’s tax rate includes maintenance and operations and interest and sinking, which goes toward paying debt.

The total tax rate for the school district is currently $1.15 per $100 valuation — $1.04 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations and .10957 for debt, or interest and sinking. With Proposition A, they would rise to a total of $1.27957 per $100 valuation.

On an average Ector County home of $170,873, the taxable value is $110,406. The increase from the TRE would be $11.96 a month, or $49.11 a year, according to a PowerPoint presentation at the news conference.

The maintenance and operation rate has not increased in the last 10 years making ECISD’s rate among the lowest in the region and among peer districts statewide.

In 2006, the Texas Legislature passed tax compression legislation (House Bill 1) which required school districts to cut their tax rate for school operations. The state committed to make up the difference with a business margin tax (ASATR), which didn’t generate enough revenue.

In 2017-18, that funding completely went away, the PowerPoint showed.

The district also faced declining revenue. Taxable appraisal values fell 17.5 percent between 2014-15 and 2016-17. That means ECISD lost millions, the presentation said.

Perryman said other entities get to keep property tax increases, but that’s not how it works for ECISD. When taxes increase, the state “proportionately lowers what they send us,” she said.

“TEA (the Texas Education Agency) has proposed to cut another $3.5 billion for public education. That is the recommendation that has gone to the legislature in just the last couple of weeks, so there will be more cuts. This is a state problem. This is something we have to talk to your state representative, your senator and others around the state (about). School finance is broken and we need to fix it and it is hurting Ector County and the 33,400 kids that live here,” Perryman said.

ECISD also offers an additional 20 percent homestead exemption which costs $12 million per year and the district has cut $23 million to balance its budget and depleted its fund balance to maintain instructional programs.

If it passes, it would generate $18 million this year. Of that, $16.5 million would come from the TRE and $1.5 million from the state in new funding, the presentation said.

Of the 13-cent proposed increase:

  • 7 cents would go for staff raises. Those on the teacher salary schedule would get a $2,500 raise. All other employees would get a 3.5 percent increase from the midpoint.
  • 4.5 cents would go to roof replacements.

Interim Superintendent Jim Nelson said commercial policies are somewhat different than homeowners’.

“I had a roof repaired in Denton County last year and I negotiated, fairly successfully, with the contractor and the insurance company to reduce my deductible. That is not the way it works in a commercial policy. They’re very matter of fact. The contractor expects to get paid the day they finish, or as the progress goes on, and they don’t really care who pays them,” Nelson said. “I understand that.”

“Our policies have a fairly significant deductible, as all these commercial policies do and if we don’t get them repaired within a certain timeframe after the damage it increases our cost significantly. We’ve got it pushed back to 2020, but one of the reasons why this money would so helpful if we could get that work done it would reduce our overall cost down the road,” Nelson added.

Nelson said he is not in a position to advocate for any particular result, but he stands ready to answer questions.

He noted that ECISD has 33,400 students and the district has “significant shortages,” but everyone is working hard to ensure student success.

“We’re going to continue that work. One of the goals that I have that I talked about with a number of these community leaders is that we want to make sure we can restore the trust between the community and the school district. It’s important for a school district to have the kind of commitment to the community, so that people will know that we’re telling them the truth and that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that their students, or that their job if they’re a teacher in the district, is secure and that they can be productive and help these children lead better lives,” Nelson said.

He said ECISD will continue to address some of the lower performing schools, but those working at those campuses are committed to “getting it right and getting those children to a better place and getting the schools to a better place.”

He said he hopes the end of the school year will yield better results.

Perryman said the district has several things going for it, but there are challenges. She said the school board made huge strides bringing Nelson on board while the search for a permanent superintendent goes on.

“He is starting to turn this ship, but we as a community have to right the financial ship of this school district. We have to provide the resources financially to stabilize ECISD,” Perryman said.

There are several stressors from worn out buses and roof damage to attracting and retaining teachers, Perryman said. The starting salary at ECISD is $47,500 a year. Midland ISD is paying $50,000 annually, she said.

Perryman said Tuesday was the launch to support the TRE.

The PAC will be conducting a campaign focusing on social media, but it also will include direct mail, yard signs, a town hall meeting, speaking engagements and door hangers.

“People communicate very differently today and get their information very differently than I do because I read the newspaper. Direct mail starts this week. We have given out 500 yards signs. We have ordered more that will be in at the end of the week,” Perryman said.

Larger signs will be in by the end of the week and put up next week.

She said people don’t start paying attention until October, which is what research shows.

“As far as a comprehensive message to the community, it is more of a compressed life,” Sewell said. “With the ability for us to use social media and digital as a platform, where in the past we’ve used multiple town hall meetings … now we can use Facebook Live as an option to be able to communicate that message. The OA (Odessa American) has the ability to do digital content, so it’s really changed the way we can get our message across,” Sewell said.

Perryman said there will be a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Odessa Regional Medical Center east campus auditorium. It will be livestreamed.

Signs may be picked up at the Barn Door restaurant and N Tune Music during business hours.

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