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Growth leads Tatum ISD trustees to consider 2012 bond election

By Jimmy Isaac jisaac@news-journal.com
Sept. 13, 2011 at 11 p.m.


Capacity issues at its primary and elementary campuses coupled with the threat of Robin Hood recapture led Tatum school trustees late Monday to proceed with plans for a possible bond election in May.

Superintendent Dee Hartt said trustees informally decided to appoint a bond committee in October to gather input and make a formal bond recommendation by February. No bond details have been discussed, but trustees on Monday and in past meetings have focused on possibly building a new elementary campus.

Trustees also adopted a $1.04 property tax rate identical to the 2010 rate. The average tax bill will increase by about $14 to $613, as the average taxable home value in Tatum ISD increased 2 percent to $58,960.

Tatum ISD enrollment has grown 304 students, or 23.4 percent, during the past five years, reaching 1,601 students this past week, Hartt said. That growth is felt most at the 27-year-old primary school, which is at capacity, and the elementary school, which has room for an additional teacher but will reach capacity when Tatum's current third-graders progress to the elementary campus.

"We have seen a little more than 5 percent (enrollment) increase every year," he said. "If we continue along that line, we are going to need additional room."

Tatum ISD also needs the debt. Bond indebtedness is not subject to Texas Education Agency recapture under the state's share-the-wealth funding plan, in which property-wealthy districts such as Tatum and Hallsville share excess property tax revenue with other districts.

Tatum's 2008 bond package will be paid off in fiscal year 2013. About 25 percent of the school's property tax rate is devoted to paying off debts. Without debt, the district would be forced to adopt a maintenance rate of at least $1 - versus 78 cents current - and have that money subject to recapture.

"That is why the timing is so important (for calling a bond)," Hartt said. "We sure want to maintain the ability to avoid recapture."

District officials expect Tatum ISD's tax rate to remain $1.04 through the 2017-2018 school year because of state education funding policies.

In another matter, the district received a superior financial rating after earning all 80 possible points in the state's financial accountability rating system. Senate Bill 218 of the 77th Legislature one decade ago authorized the implementation of a financial accountability rating system, which is officially referred to as School FIRST. The school district's School FIRST rating is based upon an analysis of staff and student data reported for the 2009-10 school year, and budgetary and actual financial data for the 2010 fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2010.

Also, trustees approved a resolution nominating Jerry Hanszen, Walta Cooke, Dewey G. "Sonny" Brasher, Margaret Dyer and Keith Williams to serve on the 2012-2013 Panola County Appraisal District Board of Directors, and a resolution nominating County Tax Assessor-Collector Matt B. Gabriel, Sharon Roberson, Jim Kangerga, Jimmy Jones and Jon Johnston to serve on the 2012-2013 Rusk County Appraisal District Board of Directors.

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