LHISD officials remain hopeful for 2012 as tax rolls expected next week

By SHELLY WILKISON

While Liberty Hill school district officials will not receive the certified property tax roll until July 25, Business Manager Frank Watson told trustees Monday that he anticipates good news.

During their regular meeting Monday, Watson told the Board that things are “looking good with the numbers we have.”

Watson said he has been comparing numbers for the coming fiscal year to line items from the current year’s budget, “and I feel good about it. I think we will come in as good, if not better, than last year.”

Although he did not discuss details of a proposed budget plan, Watson said a salary increase is proposed for employees and anticipated growth in the district will help offset that.

“We’ve been riding around the subdivisions and looking around. There isn’t one (subdivision) without slabs poured, sold or for sale signs,” he said. “I think we’re in for a good year.”

Watson said he has been monitoring the budget process in other school districts and while many are still having trouble, others appear to be doing better than in recent years. While some are laying off employees, others are giving pay raises, he said.

“Principals and teachers have done a good job putting their budget (requests) together. They realize this is a transition year, and are asking the question ‘if I buy it this year, will I get to take it with me or will it stay here?’”

When the new high school opens in fall 2013, the current Liberty Hill Junior High campus will become home to the Intermediate School and the current high school campus will become the Junior High. School district administrative offices will move into the current Intermediate School.

Watson said he will have a budget proposal prepared by July 31 and trustees will consider its adoption in August. Because of the deadlines for adoption of a budget and tax rate, trustees may hold a special meeting prior to their regular meeting August 20.

In other business Monday, the Board heard a report on the district’s English as a Second Language (ESL) and Migrant programs.

Trudy Hawthorne, ESL teacher and the district’s ESL coordinator, reported that the district has 147 ESL certified teachers — 15 more than were certified last academic year. About 20 teachers participated in certification training this summer.

LHISD does not offer teachers a stipend for ESL certification.

The Board was updated on the construction progress at the new high school. Trustees saw photographs of the rapidly changing landscape at the school site on State Highway 29. In addition to the classroom building that is visible from the highway, construction on the baseball and softball field house is under way as well as a concessions building. A slab will be poured in the coming days for the performing arts center as well.

Superintendent Rob Hart said a meeting was held last week with engineers from Chisholm Trail Special Utility District to develop a plan that will  bring water to the site.

Ultimately, water will be delivered to the campus from Chisholm Trail’s storage facility on County Road 200 with lines running along the road, behind the railroad tracks to County Road 270 and onto the property from the rear. Chisholm Trail is expected to accept bids on the construction in November, Hart said.

Hart said the project was delayed “several months” when the City of Liberty Hill appealed a decision from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to allow the school district to leave the City’s CCN to obtain water from Chisholm Trail.

While major construction on the water delivery system is underway,  an eight-inch line will carry water from CR 270 to the school property. Hart said it will not be enough to meet fire flow requirements, but it will meet some needs before the facilities are occupied next year.

In other construction updates, district architects say some projects at the current junior high campus will be complete before school starts August 27. A driveway in front and behind the school is under construction now.

Contractors say 200 people are working almost every day at the site of the new high school and as work progresses, there will be times when as many as 350 are employed on the premises.

Also Monday, the Board voted unanimously to approve a resolution regarding financing for the procurement of school buses.

Hart said the district’s fleet of school buses is in “good shape,” but the time will come when some vehicles will need to be replaced. The financing agreement with Government Capital allows the district to buy two buses per year.

“We hope this will help us keep up with the growth,” he said. “We need to retire some now.”

He said with increased student participation in sports and other extra-curricular activities, there is increased demand on bus transportation. He said during football season, the high school will take as many as seven buses to out-of-town games — four of those will be to accommodate the band.

“Participation is up, so these are good problems to have,” Hart said.

In other matters, the Board:

* Adopted a policy update on a Food Allergies Management Plan

* Reaffirmed signatories on existing lease agreements with Dell Financial  Services

* Accepted the resignations of Audra Boyd (fourth grade teacher)  Lisa Frimpter (second grade teacher) and Kerry Graham. Graham was previously approved for hire as eighth grade social social studies and boys coach, but he accepted another position elsewhere before signing a contract with Liberty Hill.

* Hired new personnel — Chase McCoy (high school math); Chelsea Powell (fourth grade teacher); Willard Fulton (resource teacher at the Intermediate School).