Test results, permit fees, school finance top LHISD agenda

By KATE LUDLOW

Though school is out for the summer, the Liberty Hill School Board of Trustees kept busy during their regular meeting Monday. The Board discussed the recent STAAR test results, heard a construction update, and discussed building permit fees.

During the inaugural year of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, known as STAAR, LHISD students scored higher than the state averages in all categories, which included English I Reading, English I Writing, Algebra 1, Geometry, Biology and World Geography.

LHISD Curriculum Director Claudeane Braun said that despite the newness of the test, students and teachers did well in preparing for it.

“This is a much more rigorous test. It requires more and different thinking. We have already found some new ways to prepare, and as this test is being phased in, that is being reflected,” she said.

After a representative from Huckbee & Associates gave the Board an update on the LHISD construction projects, Superintendent Dr. Rob Hart gave the Board a report on the construction fees paid to the City of Liberty Hill during the course of the projects.

LHISD has paid more than $50,000 in building permit fees to the City for construction projects at the current high school and junior high.

“In talking with them (Huckabee and Associates), this seems to be pretty much in line with what other cities are charging, it’s usually between 2-8 percent of the total costs,” said Hart. “The only thing that sticks out is the remodel fee that seemed to be pretty exorbitant.”

For the new junior high, the estimated cost was $2.8 million, and the remodel fees totaled $8,907.20. For the new intermediate school, the estimated cost was $7.2 million, with the remodel fees totaling $47,549.20. The guaranteed maximum price was also set for the additions and renovations to Liberty Hill Intermediate School (currently Liberty Hill Junior High School) at $7,391,190.

LHISD Business Manager Frank Watson addressed the Board regarding the budget, saying despite recent reports of property values being down, “Liberty Hill is still in a positive growing trend.”

More than 55 percent of homeowners within the Liberty Hill Independent School District received appraisal notices this spring informing them their property dropped in value since 2011.

“A lot of times, what will happen is the Williamson County Appraisal District is required by law to send out certified estimates, but you have to be careful about those, they don’t tell you it includes any property still under review,” says Watson.

Watson said that if current trends continue, LHISD can expect an additional $30 million in revenue to work with.

“We still need to wait for the certified numbers to come in, but this is what we will work with in the meantime,” he said.

He cautioned the Board that the budget that is approved this year will remain in place until August 2013.

“We’ve got a lot of big things coming in June, July, August of 2013. Anything that comes up outside of the bond issue is on us,” he said. “Dr. Hart and I are working with the most accurate numbers we have. That’s where we are at at this time.”

The Board voted unanimously to accept a bid from Sodexho Services of Texas, LP, for school food services. While Watson confirmed that the district could expect higher food costs due to new federal mandates about nutritional guidelines, he wasn’t certain how much.

“At this point in time, the cost per meal that we will have to pay Sodexho will increase, but we don’t know how much the federal reimbursements will be,” he said.

The new bid places the per meal cost at $1.836/meal, up from $1.621/meal.

In other business Monday, the Board unanimously approved a one-year extension of the Superintendent’s employment contract.

Hart, whose current three-year contract was approved in June 2010, earns $120,904 annually plus $600 per year for a mobile phone and $500 per month for auto expenses. Hart receives the same insurance benefits as other school district employees.

The contract extension approved Monday will expire in June 2013.

Following a 65-minute executive session, the Board voted unanimously to accept the resignations of Christina Wagner, Nikki Underwood, Justin Goldsmith, Terry Ebner and Mary Hansen.

The Board voted unanimously to hire Travis Filipp to teach agriculture, Kerry Graham to teach social studies and boys athletics at the junior high, Alison Havens for reading intervention at the junior high, David Mechell to teach science and girls athletics at the junior high, Michelle Mulzer for fourth grade, Christi Poulter for second grade and Christina Tucker for fourth grade.

In his closing remarks, Hart recognized LHHS Principal Bobby Mabry, who was named Principal of the Year for Region 13. In 2011, the honor was awarded to Liberty Hill Junior High Principal Chad Pirtle.

Trustee Leslye Pogue was not present Monday.