Trustees met in executive session to discuss routine and other personnel matters, consult with the Board attorney on legal matters, and review other matters as allowed under Texas law. No action was taken in open session, except to unanimously approve routine personnel matters.
Superintendent Jennifer Blaine thanked employees for their responses to Tropical Storm Imelda, which struck the Houston area on Sept. 19. Staff displayed district core values of Collective Greatness and Collaborative Spirit in putting students first. “They worked really, really hard and demonstrated what it means to be a Spring Branch family,” Dr. Blaine said.
Special Presentation: Spring Branch Education Foundation annual district gifts
The Spring Branch Education Foundation was the first group recognized. Trustee J. Carter Breed praised this district-based group for its annual gift of $1,395,189. Linda Buchman, associate superintendent for community relations, noted that funds raised for student and teacher benefit reflect great outreach through special fundraising events. “They engage our community on a scale that is truly remarkable,” she said. This year, Jennie Baker is foundation chair; Cece Thompson is foundation executive director.
Special Presentation: SBISD Financial Services Division and Purchasing Department awards
SBISD’s Financial Services Division and Purchasing Dept. were recognized by Trustee Josef Klam. Financial Services was awarded the 2019 Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) issued the highest-level award in governmental accounting and financial reporting based on review by an impartial panel of judges.
In addition, the National Purchasing Institute, or NPI, the public sector affiliate of the Institute for Supply Management, has issued a 2019 Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award to the financial division. This award is based on criteria showing excellence by evaluations in a variety of areas including innovation, professionalism, productivity, e-procurement and more.
SBISD’s Purchasing Team was also honored for being recognized as one of only 35 districts in Texas to earn the Award of Merit for Purchasing Operations. The Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO) issues this award. SBISD’s Office of Purchasing has now earned the award of merit for the past seven years.
Associate Superintendent for Financial Services Division Karen Wilson leads the department.
Special Presentation: SBISD Communications Team
Trustee Chris Vierra recognized the district’s Communications Team for earning six National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) awards. Among honors, team members earned a prestigious Golden Achievement Award for comprehensive design and planning related to the district’s new website. The new site also won an NSPRA Award of Excellence. Team members Melissa Wiland and Kristen Watts-Cain presented on the SBISD website development process recently during NSPRA’s national conference.
Other team highlights included an Award of Excellence for an engaging video, “A Pencil with a Point,” which featured Spring Forest Middle Principal Raymorris Barnes, his staff and students. The district’s e-newsletter, “Top Ten,” won an NSPRA Award of Merit, and Honorable Mention awards were issued in two other national group categories.
In addition to current team members, Trustee Vierra cited five years of work by Rusty Graham, now retired, on the award-winning Communications Team. Director Steve Brunsman leads the team. Associate Superintendent for Community Relations Linda Buchman directs this division.
Not photographed: Becky Wuerth, Communications Specialist, and Rusty Graham, Senior Writer (Retired)
Special Presentation: Kristin Craft, Ed.D., Abydos Mercedes Bonner Teacher Advocacy Award
Trustee Karen Peck recognized Associate Superintendent for Academics Kristin Craft, Ed.D., who has received the Abydos Mercedes Bonner Teacher Advocacy Award.
Abydos, formerly known as the New Jersey Writing Project in Texas, issued its top award to Dr. Craft for her advocacy on behalf of literacy for students, educators and instructional leaders in SBISD. She has also been cited for her vision, planning and implementation related to Abydos Literacy Learning. Dr. Craft’s leadership and commitment ensures that every SBISD student will be a better reader and writer, and help increase our student achievement, Trustee Peck said.
Alana Morris, personalized professional learning director, nominated Dr. Craft. In 2009, Morris received the same award. The award and company naming, Abydos, represents the Table of Abydos, also known as the ancient Rosetta Stone. Abydos is also an Egyptian city where the tablet – or stone – was found.
Public Hearing on Proposed 2019 Tax Rate
Trustees opened a public hearing on the proposed 2019 tax rate. Associate Superintendent for Finance Karen Wilson noted that a required budget hearing was held in May and June before the district budget was adopted in June. She reviewed budget assumptions, which remain similar in range, including a 5 percent increase in property values.
Among several notable items: approximately two-thirds of the tax base represents single family homes; half of all local property has a homestead exemption; and roughly a third of homestead exemptions are held by residents 65 years or older. The proposed total tax rate of $1.32098 for the upcoming year reflects a 7-cent decrease in the tax rate, or a little more than 5 percent. In the past 25 years of district history, the proposed 2019 tax rate is now the lowest ever, except for 2008, said Associate Superintendent Wilson. The June-approved budget is based on Harris County aggregate property value increases of 5.5 percent.
Based on a comparison of area tax rates and estimated taxes on a representative home, SBISD continues to assess the third lowest tax burden of all school districts surveyed. The district has retained the 20 percent local homestead exemption, while many school districts do not provide this local homeowner savings tool. SBISD revenues are up slightly, due to additional state funding and a significant decrease in revenue subject to recapture, or Robin Hood. SBISD’s recapture amount was projected to top $90 million by 2020. Under the state’s new law, it is projected to fall back to about $35 million. There were no public comments during the public hearing.
Adoption of Policy
Trustees adopted TASB Policy Update 113, as amended. The vote was unanimous (7-0).
Discussion and Possible Action Items
Next, Trustees took up and approved unanimously three separate discussion and possible action items. These included the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Calendar, guiding principles and a calendar of meetings for LEAD SBISD, and Board/Superintendent Operating Procedures. All items were approved unanimously (7-0) in separate motions and votes.
LEAD SBISD Timeline and Guiding Principles:
Approval of Resolution Setting the 2019 Tax Rate
Trustees approved unanimously (7-0) the 2019 tax rate of $1.32098 and the accompanying resolution. (See previous PUBLIC HEARING above for more details). Trustees noted that the district’s tax rate has been reduced by approximately 7 cents, or 5 percent, from last year’s rate. In addition, SBISD’s projected recapture (Robin Hood) payment of $92 million is much lower now, an estimated $35 million. Trustees highlighted recent work by Texas legislators, including local representatives, and the focus and persistence of community members and parents to keep the spotlight in Austin on education and funding. Stated several Trustees in unison: “It’s a very good day!”
Trustees approved unanimously (7-0) the Consent Agenda, which include a variety of items considered routine and so acted on as a whole. SBISD Board members have the privilege of removing items for separate consideration. No items were removed during this meeting.
Background & Current Status Report: Discussions Related to Possible Use of Memorial Middle School Property for Underground Storm Water Detention Facility
Superintendent Jennifer Blaine presented Trustees with a timeline on correspondence and events involving the Memorial City Redevelopment Authority (TIRZ 17) and City of Houston regarding possible interest in placing an underground storm water detention facility on the playing fields at Memorial Middle School. Dr. Blaine detailed actions by SBISD to gain more specific information. Associate Superintendent for Operations presented a report involving appraisal of the Memorial Middle School property, and Jennifer Henrikson with the Stantec architecture and engineering firm gave a separate presentation related to future rebuilding options at the middle school, including replacement diagrams and estimated building costs related to likely options with and without underground detention.