The Tyler Independent School District board of trustees approved its 2019-20 budget at the first board meeting of the year Monday night.
The district also approved its new tax rate, after a change to school finance swapped 7 cents per $100 of taxable value for increased state funding.
The $163 million budget gives the district a net increase of $11 million over the previous year. As a result of the state’s tax swap, the district’s Maintenance and Operation tax rate will drop from $1.04 per $100 of taxable value to 97 cents. The board approved the overall tax rate of $1.335, which includes bond debt approved by voters. That rate is a decrease from last year’s rate of $1.405.
The tax rate will be compressed further during the 2020-21 school year.
Due to rising property values, with the average home value in the district’s taxing area seeing an increase from $166,354 to $174,994, tax bills are still likely to go up. That increase means the tax bill on the average home valued at $174,994 would still see an increase of about $16.40, even with the 7-cent drop in tax rate.
The increased budget will allow the district to fund its new districtwide full-day pre-K program, expand Rose City Summer Camps to two additional middle schools next summer and fund teacher raises ranging from $2,500 to $4,000.
The district will spend about twice as much as the state has mandated for pay raises, with the total budgeted at $6 million.
In other business
The Tyler ISD Foundation donated $5,000 to the Caldwell Arts Academy Ceramics Lab and the Good Words Foundation donated $55,189 to Caldwell for digital learning opportunities.
The district also reviewed last week’s accountability rating results.
The board approved the resignation of Executive Director of Communications Dawn Parnell. Board members thanked her for the hard work and dedication she has shown the district before attendees gave her a partial standing ovation. Parnell has been with the district for six years, and will leave in September.
Clarification: A previous version of this article said the district approved a new incentive pay program. The program approved in the budget was a renewal of a previously existing program.
Summer has ended and a new school year has started.
For thousands of families in the Tyler area, Monday marked the first day of school.
The Tyler Independent School District kicked off a new year with excited students and families making their way to class.
At Andy Woods Elementary School, hundreds of parents walked their children to class before heading to the library for the first day of school “Yahoo and Boo-hoo” breakfast.
Parents mingled as students began to settle down in class and prepared to start learning.
Principal Georgeanna Jones said the first day of school is about setting expectations and making students feel at home.
“I want everybody to feel comfortable; I want the students to feel welcome,” she said. “I want them to know they’re safe here, they’re welcome here and hope they want to come back another day.”
Superintendent Marty Crawford said the district saw a much higher rate of pre-registered students this year, leading to an overall smoother first day. The district was at 18,050 students registered, not counting no-shows, compared to 17,300 pre-registered on the first day last year. The district likely will see an attendance spike this year with the addition of districtwide full-day pre-K and moving its Head Start classes onto neighborhood campuses.
Crawford said one of the few issues he saw with traffic was the entrance to John Tyler High School at Loop 323 and Lion Drive. The district has requested traffic assistance from the Tyler Police Department and put in a request to adjust the light’s timer to ease congestion.
Students at John Tyler also saw the first portion of new construction come into use with the completion of a new gym. Students will move into the new multistory academic wing after winter break.
Other districts that marked a new school year on Monday included Lindale ISD, Tyler Classical Academy and UT Tyler’s University Academy.
Update: The Smith County Sheriff's Office said preliminary findings from an autopsy conducted on 3-year-old Madison Williams show the cause of death was drowning. The Smith County Sheriff's Office said the investigation is still ongoing.
The Madison Williams Memorial Fund has been set up on gofundme.com.
An autopsy is being conducted on a 3-year-old girl who was found dead in New Chapel Hill on Sunday afternoon.
Sgt. Larry Christian, spokesman for the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, said the autopsy is being performed by Forensic Medical Management Services in Tyler.
No other information was available from the Sheriff’s Office by Monday afternoon.
Madison Williams had wandered away from her grandmother’s house and was found by divers in the family pond, according to a case report from Justice of the Peace James Meredith’s office.
There were no injuries seen on the body at the time, the report said. She was pronounced dead at 4 p.m., with a time of death of 3:30 p.m., according to the report.
Manner and cause of death are still pending, the report said.
Williams had been reported missing Sunday morning, and sheriff’s deputies responded to the area around 10 a.m. Law enforcement agencies from across the area assisted in the search, which involved drones, scent-finding K-9s and all-terrain vehicles.
The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for most of East Texas, and it likely will remain in place for the rest of the week.
The advisory means that it will feel like it is more than 105 degrees during peak temperatures in the afternoons, according to C.S. Ross, a hydrologist with the weather service in Shreveport, Louisiana.
“High temperatures (will be) in the upper 90s to near 100 for the remainder of the week,” Ross said, with overnight lows in the mid-70s.
“If you’re outside working, try to stay in the shade as much as possible,” he said. “Take frequent breaks. Drink plenty of cool ice water.
“Avoid alcoholic drinks outside,” he said. “Check on the elderly and your pets. Make sure your pets have plenty of water if they’re outside.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the electric load of 90 percent of the state, said last week there has been a record-setting load as a result of the heat.
“Consumers can help lower energy consumption by taking some simple actions between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m.,” the organization’s president, Bill Magness, said in a statement Aug. 13.
Those steps include turning up the thermostat during peak hours, programming the thermostat to increase temperature when people aren’t home, and using a fan to feel four to six degrees cooler.
The organization also advises to limit using large appliances to the morning and nighttime; to close blinds and drapes in the late afternoon; and to schedule pool pumps to run in the early morning or overnight hours.
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