Board Briefs
News from the Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees

Summary of Meeting

Board Briefs September 28, 2015

Board of Trustees Regular Meeting Agenda

Board Agenda:

Spring Branch Education Foundation

Spring Branch Education Foundation Chair Lisa Schwartz (left) with Board President Chris Vierra, Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri, SBEF Executive Director Cece Thompson and SBEF Finance Chair Carter Breed.

Following the annual symbolic presentation of gifts from the Spring Branch Education Foundation to Spring Branch ISD and recognizing that this year’s gifts totaled more than a $1 million for the first time, Trustees unanimously approved a resolution expressing the district’s gratitude and appreciation for its service to the district. The Foundation serves as a vehicle for approved donations and raises money through signature events. Since its inception in 1993 the Foundation has given more than $8 million in gifts to the district through grants and scholarships. “It’s about all of our kids,” said Trustee Pam Goodson. “All the events are fun to attend...but are rewarding for the students of our district.”
Read the resolution >>

Finance Division Awards

Trustees recognized the SBISD Finance Division, which won numerous awards and honors over the past year. For the sixth straight year, the Finance Division received the Gold Leadership Award from the Texas Comptroller’s Office for financial transparency. Also for the sixth consecutive year, the Finance Division earned the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association for its commitment to the highest principles of governmental budgeting. And the division once again earned the Certificate for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, also from the Government Finance Officers Association. Finally, for the third year the Purchasing Department has been recognized with the Award of Merit for Purchasing and Operations from the Texas Association of School Business Officials.

Tax Rate Set

Spring Branch ISD Trustees unanimously approved the district’s tax rate for 2016 at the current $1.3945 per $100 valuation, the seventh consecutive year with no tax rate increase. And while actual property values rose 15.2 percent over the previous year, the state school finance system penalizes SBISD for that growth through decreased state funding and recapture (Robin Hood). Of a $32 million increase in tax revenue in 2016, SBISD will realize only $2 million of that.

Texas voters in November are expected to increase the standard state homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000, offering some relief to taxpayers. Spring Branch is one of a handful of area districts to offer a 20 percent homestead exemption on top of that, the most allowed by law. State law also mandates that an increase in taxable value for residential property owners is capped at 10 percent, said Associate Superintendent of Finance Karen Wilson during a public hearing on the tax rate. Senior citizens over 65 can freeze their taxes at the current rate, or will experience no tax increase if already frozen.

Of the $1.3945 tax rate, $1.09 goes to the general fund for everyday operations and $.3045 goes to the district’s debt service fund to help pay back bonds for long-term capital improvements. Trustees Monday also approved refunding and paying down a portion of the district’s debt (see separate item).
Public Hearing presentation on the tax rate >>

Bond Refunding

Trustees unanimously approved an order to refund several series of bonds issued by the district, and to buy back certain others. Wilson said a bond refunding was similar to a homeowner refinancing a mortgage to get a better interest rate and loan terms, while the buyback is similar to paying ahead on principal on a consumer loan. Both moves save the district money – buying back bonds will save the district $13.5 million, Wilson said. Wilson also noted that the bond fund is strong, healthy – and locally controlled.

Innovation District

After much discussion during the September Workshop meeting, Trustees unanimously approved a resolution that initiates consideration for SBISD to be designated a “District of Innovation.” The resolution is non-binding, committing the district only to exploring what is possible and how that might look in Spring Branch. “(The resolution) allows the district to move forward in considering (an innovation district),” said Board President Chris Vierra. “It’s exploratory.” House Bill 1842, passed by the recent Legislature, provides the authority to pursue such a district.

A District of Innovation, said Superintendent Scott Muri, would free the district from certain state regulations and allow it to determine locally how best to address the needs of every SBISD child. What a District of Innovation might look like in Spring Branch will be hammered out over the next few months.

Discussion will start with the District Improvement Team (DIT) and carry through the Board of Trustees, who will appoint a District Level Committee (DLC) to create a Local Intervention Plan (LIP).  The DLC will report its LIP work periodically throughout November and December to both the DIT and to Trustees. Work is scheduled to be done prior to the 2016-17 school year.

The District’s T-2-4 goal of doubling the number of students completing a technical certificate, military training, two-year degree or four-year degree doesn’t change. Along with considering a LIP, the district will also be developing its strategic plan, which will be up for approval at the same time.
Things to know about the District of Innovation opportunity >>
HB 1842 and proposed Spring Branch ISD timeline >>

Video Conferencing Option

Trustees approved amendments to Board operating policy to allow Trustees who can’t make a meeting to participate through video conferencing. Board policy states that members are expected to physically attend every meeting, but also that circumstances sometimes prevent that. Certain rules apply to videoconferencing – the absent member must be visible to the audience, for example, and other trustees must be able to see the absent member. And if the connection is lost, the meeting must stop until re-established.

To view Consent Agenda or other items, please visit the Meeting Agenda.

This publication is distributed by the SBISD Communications Office. If you have questions or input, please contact Steve Brunsman, Spring Branch ISD Communications Director.