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LEDCO expects revenue increase in 2019-20

The Longview Economic Development Corp. has proposed a 2019-20 budget that projects nearly $600,000 in added revenue that provides for growth, President/CEO Wayne Mansfield said.

The spending plan, which projects a 10.8% revenue increase, has been approved by LEDCO’s board of directors and will be considered by the Longview City Council for final approval Sept. 12.

“This is projected to be a very strong year for us,” Mansfield said.

LEDCO is working at least 11 new economic development prospects that could potentially provide as many as 1,600 new jobs and $300 million in capital investment into the area, he said. Six of the 11 prospects are foreign-direct investment opportunities, including three German aviation projects.

“Longview’s name is getting out there,” he said.

All but $150,000 of the predicted $6.148 million in revenue next year is expected from sales tax rebates, according to the budget plan. Also, the $150,000 in interest from LEDCO’s money market accounts represents a 76% increase from this year.

Among expenses, LEDCO expects programs and projects to increase from $731,550 this year to $747,900 next year. Programs and projects are the costs for attracting retail or industry development as well as talent development such as the ACT WorkKeys assessment program for job seekers.

General and administrative spending also is going up, from $910,588 to $985,400, mostly to account for personnel and benefits, as health insurance costs will increase almost 30%, Mansfield said. Also, LEDCO employees minus Mansfield will receive a 5% pay raise.

“My salary was not included in that,” he said. “That was strictly for the staff.”

Debt service payments will decrease less than 1% to $1.09 million, while capital expenses are remaining flat.

The rest of the budget is set aside for capital projects, such as $2.52 million to complete phases 2 and 3 of the Guthrie Creek Shared Use Path, another $1.335 million in bond funds on the trail and $255,519 to install a traffic light on George Richey Road into the new Dollar General distribution center.

LEDCO committed $6.66 million to the full Guthrie Creek Trail and Shared Use Path project, Mansfield said. It has spent to date $2.8 million, leaving a balance of $3.85 million.

Another $2 million is set aside for the possibility of a new LEDCO headquarters. Mansfield said that item should be viewed mostly as savings because the money won’t be spent unless and until LEDCO directors vote to move forward on the project.

“We don’t know what the cost estimates would be, but I’ve got an idea that’s what a good solid number would be,” he said.

The 2019-20 budget calls for $8.724 million in estimated cash reserves and $11.588 million in general fund cash for LEDCO.

LeTourneau University president calls students to love God first

LeTourneau University President Dale Lunsford wants students not only to love their neighbors in ministry, but to love God first.

He referred to the Scripture reading for Monday’s convocation, which was from the 12th chapter of Mark, where Jesus said to love God first and then to love your neighbor.

The Belcher Center was filled with LeTourneau University students Monday as the campus started the 2019-20 academic year.

Monday’s convocation began with a procession of flags from international students, with each flag representing a student’s home country.

Steven Mason, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the university could have started the school year with a pep rally or at the bell tower in the center of campus, but administration chose the chapel.

“I think it’s important, too, that we not miss the intentionality of beginning our year together in this particular place,” he said. “We feel like that’s the statement to say this year we’re going to fix our eyes on Jesus. This is what centers us as a people.”

Mason said his hope for students is they will meet for an hour each week in chapel and spend time together in prayer.

Lunsford focused his talk on the importance of sequence and order.

During his address, Lunsford said he’s found in a rush to love neighbors that people sometimes forget the first step of the sequence: to love God.

This mistake also is made by other Christian universities and by churches, he said.

“Sometimes we jump to social justice issues and miss God himself,” he said. “We want to fix things, we want to free people. We want to feed people, we want to love others. These are all good things to do, but that’s number two, not number one.”

Lunsford called students not only to serve in ministry and help others this school year, but to stop and focus on God first.

“It seems as individuals we make this mistake all the time; we rush to do things, we find joy in our ministry. We want to minister, we want to serve. We find joy there, but we miss the joy in God’s presence,” he said. “We’re so busy loving others that we haven’t taken the time to stop and love God.”

Spring Hill ISD approves teacher pay scale for 30 years, $25.5M budget, lower tax rate

The Spring Hill ISD board of trustees approved a teacher pay scale at its Monday meeting that tops out at 30 years and a $60,000 base salary.

The 30-year scale is tied for the highest-level scale in the Longview area with White Oak ISD.

Longview ISD’s salary scale goes to 20 years, but the district’s 2019-20 budget has not been approved. The Pine Tree ISD and Kilgore ISD salary scales go to 27 years, and Hallsville ISD goes to 25 years.

Superintendent Wayne Guidry said the top of the pay scale increased by $8,400. The average teacher salary increase is $5,700, or 13.1%, when bonuses are added in.

A first-year teacher in the district now will make $37,158, a $3,158 increase from the 2018-19 budget.

Board president Mark White said the new salary scale will help the district be competitive.

“We have so many districts within a 30-mile radius of us, that we’re not only competing within our city but within the area,” he said. “We offer a great environment. We feel like this is the best district in Texas, but at the end of the day, love doesn’t pay all the bills, and you’d still like to be compensated.”

Those bonuses include an additional $750 stipend in May and $200 in cafeteria funds a year.

The salary raises are mandated by House Bill 3, or the school finance bill, passed in the 86th legislative session that ended in May.

The bill increased funds to school districts but mandated they spend part of the funds on salary increases and lower the tax rate. Trustees approved a tax rate of $1.57 per $100 of valuation.

The maintenance and operations rate is lowered from $1.17 to $1.0683, and the interest and sinking rate remains at 50 cents.

The new tax rate means a $1,570 tax bill on a $100,000 home, with no exemptions claimed.

Trustees on Monday approved a $25.5 million budget.

The new budget is about a $5.5 million increase from 2018-19.

In other business, the board approved about $40,000 in band instrument purchases.

AP Photo  

Sirlen Costa, of Brazil, holds her son Samuel, 5, as her niece Danyelle Sales looks on during a news conference Monday in Boston. Costa brought her son to the United States seeking treatment for his short bowel syndrome.

Longview ISD fires transportation director

Longview ISD has fired Transportation Director Dale Bohannon, district spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross confirmed Monday, adding that she could not release further details.

The district is working through transportation issues after parents had to locate two misplaced students — a 4-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy — from East Texas Montessori Prep Academy last week.

In reaction to a story posted on the News-Journal website about the parents’ ordeal, other district parents have commented that they experienced similar issues with the Longview ISD transportation department.

Madison and Chayce Stowe, the parents of one of the boys, said they are scheduled to meet with members of the Longview ISD board, but details of that meeting had not been set Monday.

Ross said the driver of the bus on which the two misplaced students were riding is no longer driving a bus and won’t “until the district can give her the training she needs.”

Problems with bus transportation are not uncommon during the first weeks of school, as the News-Journal has for years reported numerous issues in the Longview area.

Longview ISD experienced an issue in 2017 with missing students, long pickup times, busing issues and disorganization at the then-new East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, including one 4-year-old boy who had to wait three hours on his first day of school for a bus to take him to Longview High School, where his father was a coach.

And in 2013, a Longview ISD bus driver was fired after admitting she stopped at a busy intersection in South Longview and ordered 20 students off the bus after they had become unruly. Video footage of that incident was not recorded — the result, district officials said, of the driver not inspecting the equipment.

In August 2010, a Longview ISD school bus dropped off a 5-year-old Johnston-McQueen Elementary School student on her first day of kindergarten on the opposite side of Loop 281 where she lives, and Longview police returned the child to her parents about 6:30 p.m. that day. As it turned out, a school official had given the child a bus tag with the wrong address, her mother said.

Pine Tree ISD also had problems in 2010, with students missing their stops or getting on the wrong bus, its transportation director said. One child fell asleep and missed his stop, the official said.

Bohannon became Longview ISD transportation director in June after longtime director Ray Miller retired.

The district hired Bohannon in 2013 as the principal at Bramlette Elementary School, now Bramlette STEAM Academy.

He previously worked at New Waverly ISD and has worked as a teacher, principal and superintendent.

In 2015, the district reassigned Bohannon from his role at Bramlette to a safety operations role under Assistant Superintendent Jody Clements. Bohannon was listed as the truancy prevention facilitator in the 2016-17 school year.