MIDLOTHIAN — With the new school year in full swing, Midlothian ISD Board of Trustees held a regular session that presented both good news and news of a slightly tighter budget due to an unexpected Holcim interest payment.
On Monday, Aug. 21, the meeting began with an annual report by Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, LLC, presenting the collection of delinquent taxes for MISD.
Throughout 2015, the total property tax amount due to Midlothian ISD was assessed at $53,803,936. Linebarger reported having collected 99.7 percent of that total. Further, Linebarger stated MISD is financially ahead this year, as the firm has collected 100.5 percent of the over $53.8 million total due in property taxes through the use of penalties and interest.
Though there were also ten accounts listed for unpaid property taxes totaling in $89,396.36. However, seven were excluded for after being categorized as tax reduction deferrals, leaving a turnover of $367,251 as of July 1, 2016.
Senior partner Kevin Chester and attorney Charles Brady assured the board of the positive news, stating that there were very few taxpayers who didn’t pay their taxes during the 2013-15 years.
“You all have really good tax payers here, people really tighten their belts and do what they're exactly supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it,” Brady complimented.
During the action agenda, the MISD board approved to keep the 2017-18 tax rate the same as the previous fiscal year.
Also on the topic of finances, the board discussed the usage and designation of portions of fund balances with the cement company, Holcim Inc.
“We just finished our audit, and it went very well,” began MISD CFO Jim Norris. “We did get some bad news last Friday that we were going to be paying some more money to Holcim.”
“We’re going to have to pay them another $324,000 in interest,” he added.
After the Holcim court-ordered property-tax refund from the 2012 property valuation, a previous Mirror article reports that the district was forced to subtract $595,494 out of its budget. Now adding interest, the MISD board was informed of the matter on short notice.
“How do we get these people to the table,” asked board president Todd Hemphill to Norris. “This is ridiculous. We can’t be in a position where we’re guessing every year what we’re going to be hit with.”
“I find it ridiculous," he calmly added. "$547,000 was bad enough. Now we’re compounding it with this."
Norris then explained that, after the cement company won the case and the jury reset the valuation back to the original number, that the district would have to pay the interest due for the four-plus years.
"We’re actually writing the check tomorrow," he added.
“But these are two separate issues,” jumped in trustee Andrea Walton. “We have the issue that’s the legality of what’s happening and the evaluation through the appraisal district of the industry. And we can’t affect that, and I feel helpless, and I’m sad to not be able to put that money to teachers and students, but this issue for $320,000 is shocking to me.”
“That’s a matter of communication between the school district and the appraisal district," she added. […] They knew what the total was and it wasn’t communicated to us what we needed to pay."
“That’s right. We got the letter last week,” Norris confirmed.
Footing the interest fee on what it was expected to be last Tuesday, the board made it clear that the unexpected pattern of additional costs would not continue.
In other business, presentations were made for the new inductees into the 2017 Hall of Honor class and results of the 2017 Climate Survey showing MISD had statistically received a positive perception from the community, staff, and students of maximizing every student’s potential.
The board also heard updates about the MISD’s Safety and Security Initiatives that included the “Smart Tag” badges that will be issued to students within the next two weeks.
A new phone system for administrators to call for school lockdowns and the online Crisis Prevention Line or anonymous tip line for any community member or student to report inappropriate or troublesome situations was also listed.
As the meeting concluded with action items listed, the board:
Unanimously approved the Chapter 41 Contract of the Texas Education Code (TEC) that makes provisions for school districts to “share the wealth” with local tax revenue with other school districts. Approved purchases exceeding over $50,000, passing with a 6-0 vote and one abstention. Approving the redeemed or repay bonded debt ahead of schedule, recalling certain bonds for redemption, the motion carried 6-0. Approved Pogue Construction as Construction Manager at Risk for the 2016 Bond Construction Projects, approved 6-0 with one abstention. Approved Andrea Walton as the MISD representative to the TASB delegate assembly for 2017, and Heather Prather as the alternate, 6-0. Next month’s MISD School Board session is scheduled for September 18 at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit misd.gs or call the office at (972)-775-8296.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer