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C-CISD board reviews utility costs

CORRIGAN – A review of utility costs was among the items presented to the Corrigan-Camden Independent School District's board of trustees Monday.
Superintendent Sherry Hughes reported that transportation services benefited by the lower fuel costs of this spring.

The board also approved the consent agenda consisting of minutes from the July 20 meeting, the 2015-16 NCLB grant award and teacher evaluations. They also approved a resolution to sanction 4-H as an extracurricular activity for the 2015-16 school year.

Also approved was the C-CISD Board Operating Procedures Manual, which had undergone a review in an earlier meeting. They also approved the C-CISD District Improvement Team Goals and Objectives report and the board meeting calendar for 2015-16. They set the date of Aug. 25 at 6:30 p.m. for the tax rate and proposed budget public hearing.

During the Superintendent's report Hughes reviewed the UIL guidelines and calendar for the 2015-16 school year and the projected enrollment figures for each campus. She noted the Student Engagement Local Accountability Ratings showed strong involvement this year.

The board held a brief executive session but no action was taken after reconvening the regular session and adjourning.

Commissioners vote to maintain tax rate

LIVINGSTON – Although final approval will be made in September, Polk County commissioners formally voted Tuesday to propose maintaining the current tax rate when the 2016 budget cycle begins on Oct. 1.

During their regular meeting, commissioners confirmed an agreement made at last week's budget workshop to propose a tax rate of $0.6461 per $100 in assessed value. While this is the same rate used for the current 2015 budget, it does exceed the "effective rate" of $0.6417, which means it constitutes a tax increase under state law.

The effective rate is the amount the county would need to generate the same amount of income as the prior year.

If given final approval, the $0.6417 rate would mean a taxpayer with $100,000 in taxable value after exemptions would pay $646.10 in county taxes under the 2016 budget. If the effective rate of $0.6417 were adopted, the same taxpayer would be assessed $641.70.

Under the plan stated Tuesday, the overall county tax rate will be broken into three parts -- $0.1234 being allocated to retire existing county debt; $0.1429 to the road and bridge fund; and $0.3798 to fund everything else covered in the general fund.

Public hearings on the proposed tax rate are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 1. A hearing on the county's 2016 budget will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8. All will be held in the third-floor commissioners courtroom in the Polk County Courthouse in Livingston.

Just three months ago, commissioners were faced with the possibility of having to increase the tax rate to overcome a projected $1.4 million deficit in the 2016 budget. The loss of more than $850,000 in funds previously received from the IAH Adult Detention Facility near Livingston and other factors were expected to create the shortfall.

Led by County Judge Sydney Murphy, the commissioners have worked to cut spending, agreed to not replace some personnel who have left and converted some positions from fulltime to part-time employees. Commissioners also agreed to give up $209,000 in tax income that had previously been allocated to their road and bridge budgets and turn that over to the county's general fund to help balance the new budget.

During last week's budget workshop, they also voted to trim 1.8 percent – about $66,000 -- off the sheriff's department's budget, but wanted to get input from Sheriff Kenneth Hammack as to where the cuts would be made.

At Tuesday's meeting, the amount needed to be cut by the sheriff had been reduced to 1.46% or $53,164.51.

Although Hammack reluctantly agreed to cut one currently vacant patrol deputy's position, he promised to be back before the court asking for it to be reinstated as soon as possible.

"You're singing to the choir, brother," said Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet noted every department was being hit, including the commissioners' road and bridge funds. "We (the four commissioners) each have given up over $50,000 so we're all bleeding together," he said.

Other business
During the meeting, commissioners also:
•Authorized the issuance of $1.06 million in tax notes to cover a number of capital purchases made during the past year. The notes are being sold at an interest rate of 1.93 percent.
•Tabled action on a lease of 643 acres of land owned by the county's school districts in Throckmorton County in North Central Texas. Although the land is administered by the county, the income from oil and gas leases and surface leases is divided among the school districts. Polk County Agrilife Extension Agent Mark Currie reported that one of seven leases is available due to the death of the man who had leased the property. He noted at least three of the adjoining leaseholders have expressed interest in the land, but action was tabled due to the absence of Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis.
• Approved a resolution in support of an application for an $80,227.53 grant being made by the Polk County Sheriff's Department to the Governor's Homeland Security Grants Division for three consoles.
• Approved trading two large generators that had previously been declared as surplus for two new, smaller generators to be installed at the county's maintenance fuel pumps and at the Corrigan Sub-Courthouse. The estimated cost of installing the equipment was listed at $2,500.
• Approved the list of salaries and benefits for the elected county officials. It was noted that the only change from last year was the addition of longevity pay. Murphy noted in the proposed budget, the only salary change included for any official or employee was the addition of the previously approved longevity pay.

City Council eyes new telephone system

CORRIGAN – After Tropical Storm Bill forced the cancellation of their June 16 meeting, the Corrigan City Council convened their regular meeting last week and reviewed a proposal for a new, unified telephone system.

At present, the police department, municipal courts and city hall have separate phone systems, which requires city employees to dial the full telephone number and tie up the city's telephone lines when calling one of the other city units. The proposed system will allow all city phones to connect to each other by dialing an extension number.

CMS IP Technologies Telecommunication System presented the plan that the council agreed to study.

The city previously sought proposals from accounting firms for the annual outside audit review.

Three proposals were submitted with costs ranging $16,000 - $18,000 up to a high of $22,000.

Before discussion, Councilman Bill Safford asked if their references had been contacted. When the answer was "no," he immediately made a motion to table the issue to a future meeting. Council agreed and the matter will be returned for further review at a later time.

KSA Engineering attended an earlier council meeting and made a proposal to assist the city in any projects that engineering services were needed. Last week, they voted to accept the contract for future engineering services after City Manager Darrian Hudman said the city attorney checked the document to ensure it met legal standards.

A new bid on a tax-foreclosed property was discussed and approved for the land at Tract 7, N.H. Hendry Survey, abstract #779, which exceeded the city's minimum bid criteria.

Council discussed and received answers to questions regarding the monthly financials. One was whether or not they might run short of funds before the current budget closed in September.

Hudman assured all present it is not an issue, noting there would be additional sales tax income before the budget year ended. Council accepted the reports and vouchers.

Police Chief Darrell Gibson reported the department made 14 arrests, issued 904 citations, completed 212 calls for service and performed 3,861 building checks during the prior month. In addition, officers worked 11 criminal cases and forwarded nine to the Polk County Criminal District Attorney's Office. There were a total of five accidents with none resulting in a fatality. Gibson reported the traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 287 and U.S. 59 seems to be under better control at this time.

Mayor Jonathan Clark presented the fire department report, which listed the removal of five trees that were downed by the tropical storm. In addition, the department responded to two motor vehicle accidents including one in the county that resulted in a fatality. There also were nine medical assistance calls, two calls each for vehicle fires and gas spills and one police assistance.
In items from council members, Johnnie Mae Brooks asked about getting the grass and weeds cut to make the city look clean. A citizen, Kelly Shadix, said she knew that council no longer has open forum, but wanted to support the city's efforts to clean up and right now the wet ground prevents some areas from using heavy equipment for weed and grass control. It was mentioned that people have hidden in the shadows and tall weeds and have scared some citizens.

Murphy reports reduction in budget deficit through spending cuts

LIVINGSTON – After working with the "smaller departments" to cut payroll expenses, Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy told commissioners Tuesday she had been able to reduce the projected budget deficit from $1.4 million to just under $1 million.

During the meeting of the county commissioners, Murphy said the savings would come through not replacing employees who retire or leave for other reasons, converting some positions to part time and moving some positions to a lower pay grade.

The effort to cut spending is the result of losses of income, primarily through the IAH Adult Detention Facility located near Livingston. In the past, the county received a payment based on the number of inmates being held in the private detention center but due to changes in federal guidelines, the number of prisons had dropped. The latest projection is that the county will lose about $850,000 in income during the coming budget year that begins Oct. 1.

The prison houses mostly illegal immigrants being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as prisoner being detained by the U.S. Marshals Service. Under the new federal rules, not as many prisoners are being detained by ICE as in recent years.

Murphy has warned county officials that unless cuts can be made, there could be employee layoffs in October when the new budget year begins.

During Tuesday's meeting, she noted that there might be some additional savings that could be found in the larger departments but right now they would need to increase the county's tax rate by three cents to cover the projected $1 million deficit.

"Somebody better be ready for some cuts before we increase taxes," Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis said.

Murphy noted that the figures she was presenting to the commissioners are still "very preliminary" and urged them to go over the numbers to see if any additional savings can be found.

County audit report
Due to issues in the district clerk's trust fund accounts, the county received a "qualified" report when the outside audit of the 2014 budget year was presented.

Robert Belt of the accounting firm of Belt Harris Pechacek LLLP told commissioner that the audit was unable to obtain needed information regarding the trust accounts, particularly the account set up to hold money generated through the sale of property seized for the nonpayment of taxes.
That account currently is the subject of a criminal investigation being conducted by the Texas Attorney General's Office and Belt told commissioners that it probably would take a forensic examination or something "like an archeological dig" to go back through all of tax sale transactions to determine what has happened in that account.

Former District Clerk Kathy Clifton resigned on May 21, the day after officials with the Texas

Attorney General's Office executed a search warrant to obtain records from her office.

A new district clerk, Bobbye Richards, has been appointed by the county's two district judges and is set to be sworn into office on July 1. She was present during Tuesday's meeting and was introduced to the commissioners.

Other than the issue in the district clerk's office, Belk gave the county and overall favorable report on its 2014 budget year. He noted the fund balance in the general fund increased by $500,000 and rose to over $7.1 million. The road and bridge department's fund balance climbed by over $1.2 million, increasing to almost $3.3 million.

The fund balance is the money that is held in reserve for emergencies and Belt said the balances in both the general and road and bridge funds was healthy.

In his report, Belt said beginning next year, governments will begin to have to list their pension liabilities as part of the audit report. He noted the pension numbers are included in the audit footnotes but will now have a more prominent place in the report.

He noted that Polk County's pension liability currently stands at about $4 million and said the county was in "good shape" in that area, especially when compared to other counties.

Other action
During the meeting, commissioners:
-- Approved a request from the Burke mental health program to provide a county "match" for a grant it will seek to fund a Polk County mental health deputy to be assigned to the sheriff's office. Sheriff Kenneth Hammack told commissioners that if the grant is awarded, it would allow Burke to hire a mental health officer who would be assigned full time to his office. The specially trained officer would serve mental health warrants and perform other related duties. Normally, the county would put up 25 percent of the cost of the officer as their march but Hammack said that providing the officer with a vehicle, gas and oil would cover that amount. Due to cuts in his prisoner transportation staff, Hammack said he currently has a car that can be used.

-- Authorized submitting a request for public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) due to the damage to county roads caused by the severe rainstorms in May. Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Pitts was designed as the primary contact for FEMA and Assistant Coordinator Courtney Comstock was named as the secondary contact.

-- Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Texas A&M Forest Service allowing both Pitts and Comstock to join the Pineywoods Regional Incident Management Team. By joining the team, the two emergency management officials will undergo additional training and could take part in assisting in emergency situations in other parts of Texas and the United States.

-- Authorized building modifications to the Polk County Museum. Murphy explained that the Polk County Historical Commission was contracting with Southwest Museum Services to fabricate and install new museum exhibits at a cost of $155,000. The money is being paid by the historical commission and no additional funds are needed from the county.

C-CISD prepares for $3.2 million bond sale

By Lew Vail
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CORRIGAN – Preparations for the sale of $3.2 million in school bonds approved by voters in May were made Monday during the Corrigan-Camden School Board's meeting.

Ron Greiner of Government Capital advised the board that the current interest rate for school bonds is 2.4 percent, which will allow for payback under the terms sought by the board. The board will review the bond document, interest rates and terms of the sale on Aug. 27 and then are expected to authorize the sale.

The money generated from the sale of the bond will be used to update the school's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to upgrade school security. During Monday's meeting, architect Mark Strong of Goodwin, Lassiter and Strong indicated all plans will also be presented at the August meeting.

Jeff Fischer, project manager for Gallagher Construction, reported that they are working on getting the collapsible stands and the handicapped lift work done before school opens in late august. They will continue to work weekends and during breaks after school is in session.

In related business, the board voted to adopt a reimbursement resolution, declaring the districts intent to reimburse itself from the proceeds of the future bond sale for certain expenses made in connection with construction and equipment for the school buildings. This allows them to begin making immediate progress on the bond issue alterations using current maintenance and operation funds and then to replace those funds with interest and sinking funds when the bonds are sold.

Superintendent Sherry Hughes reported that Southwestern Food Service's on site manager will begin work on July 7. This is part of the new cafeteria operation that will provide expect menu planning and utilize local employees along with a management team. Also the board agrees to a cooperative agreement with American Purchasing Consortium, the coop that Southwestern uses for food purchasing.

Due to the absence of several board members, the board tabled action on policy updates dealing with mainly personnel issues and student conduct until the August 17 regular meeting.
Hughes reported the school year ended with 983 students, down from the 1,025 in June 2014. Principal reports indicated that plans are well under way for the 2015-16 school year. Elementary teacher of the year was Rebekah Jolly, a fourth grade teacher and grade level leader.
The board also gave away six I-Mac computers for perfect attendance to Colton Pursley, Jess Shows, Bradley Vasut, Ty'drick Singleton, Lili Flores and Tonya Pervis.

The primary school reported that 50 percent of English as a Second Language students are attending summer school. This is an increase and the district furnishing transportation has made it possible. Misty Moody was named as the campus' teacher of the year and students Marty Scarborough and Lorenza Gonzales were recognized for perfect attendance for the year.
The junior high ended the year with 38 girls and 54 boys in athletics, the band had 46 participants, 38 made the "A" honor roll and 34 made the "AB" list.

Two parcels of property were on the approval list for sale including Riley Village section 2 lots 431-435 and Tract 7, 3.253 ac, N Hendry Survey Abs 779. Both were bid at more than 25 percent of appraised value and the board approved the sale.

Minutes were approved and financials, utility epenses and vouchers were reviewed and accepted.

The board recognized Linda Hughes, Kim Popham and Lew Vail with certificates to the 2015 Media Honor Roll from TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) for "fair and balanced reporting, providing valuable information to the public about public schools".

C-CISD awards foodservice contract

By Lew Vail
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CORRIGAN – The food service program as well as wood and metal working instruction were topics of discussion when the Corrigan-Camden Independent School District's board convened on Monday.

Since February C-CISD administrators and board members have been evaluating proposals for a food service program to manage their cafeterias. The board decided Monday to contract with Southwest Food Services.

Superintendent Sherry Hughes said this will provide a better quality of food for the children and the district will benefit by having nutritious meals with less processed foods. According to Southwest's literature, they will provide the highest quality food and ingredients available, and have onsite support and training for cafeteria staff with training and team building on each campus.

Their professional management person will assure continuous food quality evaluations and the children will see increased "from scratch" cooking and less processed foods served. All current food service workers will be retained and C-CISD will not have to employ a dietician, as the management comes with the program.

In other discussion, the board learned that with the RoyOMartin Company committing to open a facility in Corrigan, the company is partnering with C-CISD to provide training for future workers. Company officials recently met with high school students to tell them of future opportunities and about their wood shop project, which Corrigan-

Camden High School will be adding to the curriculum for 2015-16. RoyOMartin made a donation for software to facilitate the school's curriculum planning.

S&B Engineers and Constructors has also partnered with C-CISD and recently visited the campus and evaluated the welding program. When S&B officials realized the equipment students were being trained on was outdated for today's workplace, they donated three MIG/SIG/TIG capable welding units, which will train students to enter the market place with up to date training. The firm will also help students become certified welders by graduation
The primary school reported they had 35 children enrolled for pre-kindergarten and will hold another signup on May 12 from 5 to 6 p.m. Parents can come in at any time and enroll their students. They project about 60 for the 2015-16 school year.

The campus also is participating in a community project to help a young person obtain a specially trained dog to assist her in everyday tasks. Their goal is to raise $200.

The elementary school held the first ever Easter Egg hunt and had 99 percent attendance. Only one student, who came to school but felt sick, missed the event. Campus attendance is averaging 97.14 percent daily. Field trips scheduled are May 1 when the fourth grade will go to Huntsville for the Sam Houston Folk Life Festival, the fifth grade will go to Lufkin to see a play and eat at CiCi's pizza and third grade will go to the Aquarium.

The junior high reported that ISS students are down to 19, from a high of 30 earlier in the year. A total of 38 girls and 54 boys are participating in athletics, 46 are in the band, 28 students earned the "A" honor roll and 19 were named to the "AB" list. Eighth grade boys are district track champions and eighth grade girls placed second at the district track meet. They gave away 50 tickets to both baseball and softball games at Sam Houston State University.

The high school has 286 students with a 95.8 percent attendance. They will hold the second round of End of Course (EOC) exams May 5-8 and then evaluate and wait for the state to report their results. Their students had a very successful Trinity-Neches Livestock Show representation and were honored during the board meeting.

In utility comparison for the month, Hughes said that natural gas use is down and they continue to monitor water. The recent purchase of fuel for busses was a saving and they will look to refiling the storage tanks in May to cover field trips and the summer school needs. Tax collection is at 93 percent and Hughes reminded the board that the higher the collection rate, the lower the state funds the district receives. She said that the decrease in school population to a daily average of 912 -- down from 944 last year -- will probably mean a decrease in 2015-16 funding; however since the legislature is still in session there are no figures to consider yet.

The board passed a resolution declaring May 4-8 as C-CISD Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week. Financials, bill payments and minutes were reviewed and accepted. The board will attend the Texas Rural Educators Conference on June 19-21 and also receive training required for CEU's. They decided to canvas the election results, swear in winners and elect board officers during their regular May meeting, May 18 at 7 p.m.

After a brief executive session the board approved teacher contracts for 2015-16 school year and adjourned.