RISD tax rate set at $1.2534 by board

Trustees mull who should take ‘rigorous’ advanced placement classes at high school
Reporter Editor

Rockdale school trustees approved a $1.2534 tax rate for 2013-14 Monday evening, up 1.5 cents from the current rate but only half the increase proposed earlier in the summer.

Meeting in regular session in the Central Administration Building, trustees also had a lengthy discussion over who should, and should not, take advanced placement courses at the high school.

TAX RATE—Marla Wallace, chief financial officer (CFO) recommended the $1.2534 tax rate, reflecting $1.04 for maintenance and operation and 21.34 cents for debt service.

Wallace said Rockdale ISD taxable values decreased considerably during the past year, due mostly to values placed on Luminant’s Sandow 5 unit.

In July, values certified by the Milam Appraisal District (AD) showed a 10.6-percent decrease for the RISD, from $1,036,205,016 to $926,364,063.

The previous month the district had proposed a 3.68-cent tax increase, from the current $1.2384 to $1.2751.

Wallace had previously said anticipated additional state funding would cushion some of the lost revenue from Sandow 5 and she pointed out Monday that bonds used to build the new intermediate school and renovate RHS have been refinanced, allowing the district some leeway in setting the interest and sinking tax rate.

“We could possibly be looking at another refinancing,” Wallace said.

Lee Jenkins, board president, commended Wallace on her work. “We’re bring prudent and doing everything we can not to increase taxes any more than we have to,” he said.

RIGOR—The key word was “rigor” as board members addressed the topic of which students take advanced placement (AP) courses for college credit through RHS and how many should actually be enrolled.

RHS Principal Joey Geletka said 96 RHS students are currently enrolled on one or more of the six AP courses offered.

The district then pays for ex pen sive te st i ng wh ich, i f passed, results in the student receiving college credit.

Trustees expressed something between curiosity and concern that too many students might be taking too many AP courses for the wrong reasons.

“We need to find out which students need to be AP students in what courses, then we need them to go to town, the teachers to go to town, with rigor,” board member Kent Bowermon said.

Bowermon said he didn’t see AP classes being taken “just for the GPA (grade point average), so ‘I can be in the top 10 or top 25’.”

Interim Supt. Donald Denbow said insuring the proper academic rigor would go a long way toward rectifying the situation.

“If your rigor is appropriate, then overpopulation in AP courses will take care of itself,” he said.

Trustee Troy Zinn raised a different perception, noting that AP classes may have become so much the thing to do at RHS that “there is a negative connotation to taking regular classes (in the same subjects).”

Board members did not take action on any of the issues surrounding AP courses but said the matter could be revisited at a subsequent session.

In other business Monday, board members:

• Cast their votes for appraisal district directors for Tim Arledge and Mike Vance. Board members expressed appreciation to outgoing director Joan Ratliff for her service on behalf of the RISD during her tenure on the board.

• Heard reports on district improvement plan readiness from principals Sandee Calame, Kathy Pelzel, April Eschberger and Geletka.

• Discussed later STAAR testing results and information with counselor Lynette Guerra.

• Honored September “Paws for Praise” recipients as follows:

Elementary—Alice Van Borrsum, assistant principal; Cindy Pelzel, para-educator.

Intermediate—Kelly Springfield, fifth-grade teacher; Kristi Moreland, secretary.

Junior- high— Cheryln Ellis, academic coordinator; Regina Mayfield, custodian.

High school—Christi Betchan, secretary; Amanda Grigsby, AG teacher.

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