The Midlothian ISD School Board voted to hire former Waxahachie ISD Assistant Superintendent of Finance Teresa Thomas in the same capacity at its meeting Monday, Aug. 19.
Superintendent Dr. Jerome Stewart noted that Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Katie Bowman had stepped down from her position with the district, but voluntarily decided to attend the board's meeting to present several finance items and ensure a smooth transition.
The board received a recommendation from the administration to approve Thomas, which it discussed in closed session before voting unanimously to approve the hire in open session.
Thomas expressed her excitement and eagerness to join the district and likewise Stewart and the board welcomed her to the district.
The board opened its meeting by setting the tax rate, which Bowman presented to the board.
The debt service or interest and sinking fund rate is set at 50 cents and the maintenance and operation rate is set at $1.04 for a total tax rate of $1.54 per $100 valuation, Bowman explained.
Before setting the tax rate, she noted that the district had received more tax revenue than what was projected.
“The district did see an increase in tax revenue beyond what was expected, which staff recommends be used to cover the bond refinancing that is in your agenda tonight,” Bowman said. “The refinance will result in doubling the interest rate (from 1 percent to 2 percent), which is about to shift into a variable rate. Refinancing will lock in that rate of 2 percent for five years, avoiding the risk of a variable rate.”
After setting the tax rate, the board voted in a separate action item to adopt the tax rate, and later approved to refinance the bond mentioned.
In other personnel action, the board voted 6-0-1 with an abstention from Trustee Todd Hemphill to approve the creation of a Community Development Coordinator position. This new position will serve as an employee of the district and the Midlothian Education Foundation, working 50/50 for both entities. Stewart opened discussion explaining that the MEF was in need of a “booster shot” to greater serve the district and continue to support itself.
The MEF board attended the meeting and founding board member Jamie Wickliffe presented information to the board.
“I was on the original MEF board and the district supported us financially and set us on a long range path to become self sufficient,” Wickliffe said. “When the district reached critical mass (financially) the district asked us to become self sufficient, which we did because we didn't want to force the district to cut teachers to continue funding MEF.”
Wickliffe noted that the foundation has been able to maintain its self sufficiency, but has not raised the kind of support for the district for which it was created. She guaranteed the district that the MEF board would not have presented this option if it did not believe this would triple or quadruple the foundation's financial support of the district.
Trustee Keith Hitt, who has in the past expressed a desire to see the district market itself, voiced his support for creating the position.
“I've seen through some of my research that when the (foundation director) is also an employee of the district, they tend to raise more funds,” Hitt said. “I've seen this in neighboring districts and seems to be the way that many do this.”
Stewart noted that this position would be funded through money budgeted for additional personnel and supplies, and it would not require a budget increase. When asked by Burge, Stewart noted that this fund was separate from the district's contingency fund for personnel.
Burge made the motion to approve the position, noting that he trusted the group of MEF board members in front of him. Hitt seconded the motion, and Hemphill abstained because he is close to one of the foundation's candidates it is interviewing for this position.
In other action, the board:
• voted 5-2 with Burge and Trustee Cindy Williams in opposition to postpone its decision to contract services for a demographer until its September meeting
• voted 5-2 with Burge and Trustee Matt Sanders in opposition of approving an amendment to the budget to cover a $20,500 expense for the Sports Park to add a permanent fence for the yellow ball field and playground shade cover
• voted unanimously to upgrade its district phone system
• reached a consensus for Burge to serve as its TIRZ representative until Thomas can take over those duties
• received an update on the Midlothian Heritage High School bond project from Balfour Beatty
• approved changes to the superintendent's annual contract not including a change in salary