Board receives COVID, budget updates

Public hearing set for Aug. 30 to approve 2021-2022 budget, tax rate; 2-cent drop proposed

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Waxahachie Independent School District Administration Building at 411 North Gibson Street.

With COVID-19 cases spiking in Texas due to the Delta variant — right as students get ready to return to class on Thursday —  the Waxahachie ISD board of trustees heard an update on the situation during Monday evening’s monthly meeting.

WISD nurse coordinator Melissa Bousquet told the board the district has updated its policy to include not only positive COVID cases, but also “COVID-like illnesses” — that is, any illness that exhibits symptoms of the disease such as loss of sense of taste or smell, along with a confirmed case in the home. Anyone who exhibits these symptoms will be quarantined for 10 days.

“WISD is committed to following this very fluid situation closely,” Bousquet said. “We’re going to make any changes that state and local health authorities suggest that we make.”

WISD deputy superintendent Lee Auvenshine said the Texas Education Agency and the Department of State Health Services issued new guidance just last week covering suspected cases of COVID. Auvenshine said students who test negative for COVID and are symptom-free for 24 hours may return to school.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently issued an executive order forbidding school districts from making the wearing of masks mandatory.

Also during Monday’s meeting, district chief financial officer Ryan Kahlden reviewed the 2021-2022 school budget and proposed a tax rate reduction of 2 cents per $100 valuation, to 96.03 cents.

The general fund budget is $107 million, the debt service fund is $22 million and the child nutrition fund is at $4.8 million. Debt service is the only fund projected to go into deficit because of some planned bond refinancing, Kahlden said.

A public hearing to discuss the budget and proposed tax rate will be held Monday, Aug. 30 at 5 p.m. in the WISD Administration Building board room. The budget will go into effect Sept. 1.

Board vice president Clay Schoolfield presided over the meeting in the absence of board president Dusty Autrey.

Other items

• The board approved the 2021-2022 compensation plan with a 2-percent raise or professional personnel and a 5-percent raise for non-professional personnel. A stipend list for the school year was also approved.

• Four WHS students were presented with their diplomas after completing their coursework over the summer.

• WISD systems support specialist Brian Crouse was recognized by the board for his service to the district.

• Cristian Perez, who will be a sixth-grader at Coleman Junior High, was recognized for his regional first-place finish and national qualification at the Spanish Spelling Bee.

• Auvenshine went over Texas Association of School Board policy updates. The board will take action to align its policies with TASB at a future meeting.

• Assistant superintendent of secondary learning Dr. David Averett told the board the district’s dress code was updated to change the wording from “fingertip length” to “mid-thigh.”

• The board held a public hearing on and later approved a proposed amendment to the district’s innovation plan. The amendment allows for an alternative health plan for staff. Trustee Kim Kriegel, however, warned that a law passed in this year’s state legislative session will forbid school districts from offering two health plans, effective next September.

• The approved consent agenda included previous meeting minutes, a dual credit partnership agreement with Navarro College, grading guidelines for the new school year, Credit by Exam methods and dates, and a number of insurance policies.

• Consent agenda items were pulled and discussed separately before approval: monthly financial reports, a memorandum of understanding with Southwestern Assemblies of God University for use of facilities, and the 2021-2022 student code of conduct.

• The board nominated trustee Melissa Starnater as delegate and trustee Debbie Timmermann as delegate to the 2021 TASB Delegate Assembly. Trustees also nominated Maypearl ISD trustee Tricia Ikard for the TASB Region 10 board.