At its regularly-scheduled session, the Van Alstyne ISD Board of Trustees discussed the 2016-17 proposed budget, testing results and the district tax rate, among other items on the agenda.

Wendi Russell, director of curriculum and instruction, gave trustees a breakdown of the latest STAAR testing results, of which full results can be found online at the district’s web site, Overall, there were many high points with most groups exceeding the state percentage average. Ninth and tenth graders, for example, were at or near the top with all other schools in the state in reading and ELA assessments. Advanced testing scores were charting at the top of the percentiles, as well, an area which has been something of a weakness in the past.

“That’s pretty remarkable,” said Superintendent Dr. John Spies.

There were other groups that exceeded the state average, while there were also some spots that the district has vowed to address, such as falling below the state average in third grade math scores.

“Our benchmark is not the state average, it’s 10 points above the state average,” Spies said.

A potential lease offer on the current administration building was also discussed. The district has outgrown its current facility and is considering the purchase of the GCEC building located at 1096 N. Waco. The purchase price of the building and property is not to exceed $2.5 million. This will be discussed, with possible action taken, at the scheduled Aug. 29 meeting.

However, that would leave the current administration building owned by the district vacant. Spies said that he was approached by a daycare facility in Van Alstyne that would like to lease the main building and land connected to the southeast of the building when the district moves out. The proposal is for $1,500 for the first six months and $2,500 per month after that on a 10-year lease on the 4,000 square foot building.

Spies stated that he would be more comfortable with a five-year lease and a six-month “out” on the contract for both parties. The lease would certainly contain an out clause in the event the school district could not close on another property. The board gave Spies authority to negotiate a lease with the company in a unanimous 6-0 vote.

The 2016-17 proposed budget was discussed with a public hearing held prior to the meeting. No members of the public attended the meeting. The budget, which is approximately $882,620 higher than last year’s budget, was approved in a 6-0 vote. Much of that increase can be attributed to hiring seven new teachers, one new aide and pay raises ($585,630), a decrease in moving money from the general operating fund to interest and sinking (bonds - $300,000) and planned construction costs for a new administration building ($460,000.)

Spies presented the M&O (Maintenance and Operations) and I&S (Interest and Sinking) budget breakdowns for the board. Notable on the M&O side was a $21 million loss in revenue due to Caterpillar shutting down Van Alstyne operations at the end of the year and a projected $540,000 less in state funding with a $300,000 upswing in taxpayer funds. On the I&S side, the district is losing money from the state but gaining money from the local side.

The tax rate will not be effected as it will remain at $1.12 on the M&O side and .40 cents on the I&S side for $1.52 overall. The board unanimously approved the proposed rate.

Elementary school meals will be going up in price as presented by Business Manager Renee Maples. She told the board that schools are struggling, particularly the high school, to make money with its meal programs, citing a four percent rise in grocery prices overall and fewer meals sold at the high school. Maples said this is a common situation effecting school across Texas. She did state, however, that the elementary school is making more money than the other campuses. To help defray costs, the district will take the high school serving lines down from two to one this year and move a cafeteria worker to the elementary school to help meet the greater demand at that campus.

Prices will stay the same at the middle school and high school but the elementary school pricing will go up slightly. Breakfast price will go up .25 cents (from $1.25 to $1.50) and the elementary lunch will be going up .10 cents (from $2.50 to $2.60.)

Meeting Notes: Trustees approved a hazardous routes plan. This concerns children who are not eligible for bus transportation, mainly those children on the elementary side of Georgetown… The board approved the teacher evaluator/evaluation calendar and local policy DNA/DNB… Trustees approved the VAHS Band to go on a band trip to Branson, Mo, since this is a non-contest season… Career and Technical Education funding was at $891,661 in 2014-15, up from $573,171 in 2009-10, corresponding with a rise in career and tech students.