The Sept. 15 Needville School Board meeting began with a public hearing on federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds, and was followed by their unanimous approval.

The one-time funds are apportioned to local educational agencies to address the impact of COVID-19 learning loss in elementary and secondary schools.

Needville ISD has been allocated $1,038,911 in the one-time ESSER funds.

VATRE ballot confusing

Trustees also reviewed the ballot for the Nov. 2 General Election regarding NISD’s proposed Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE).

Last month, the board approved the district’s 2021 property tax rate under the assumption that voters will approve the VATRE, thus lowering the tax rate by about 12 cents per $100 valuation.

Approval of the VATRE by voters will also provide an increase of more than $600,000 to the district annually.

Superintendent Curtis Rhodes said state-required ballot wording of the VATRE is confusing and may lead some voters to mistakenly believe their taxes will be raised, rather than lowered.

Identified as Proposition A, the ballot states NISD’s ad valorem tax rate “will result in an increase of 3.54 percent in maintenance and operations tax revenue for the district for the current year as compared to the preceding year, which is an additional $391,653.”

Rhodes said the increase the ballot refers to is the Fort Bend County Central Appraisal District’s (CAD) appraised value of NISD’s tax base, something over which school districts have no control. The CAD raised NISD’s certified values to $1.3 billion, a 10 percent increase from last year.

The “additional $391,653” referred to in the ballot is the increase in annual funds of local taxpayer dollars.

“The increase refers to revenue, not tax rate; the VATRE is why we were able to lower the tax rate for this year,” Rhodes said. “It will benefit the district, its students and staff, and property owners as well, making it a win-win for everyone. The district will receive that extra $600K,000 or so each year, and property owners reap the benefit of a 12-cent decrease in property taxes.”

He said the VATRE is “a great opportunity for Needville ISD to access additional funds from the state and for property owners to see that big decrease in the tax rate, but it requires voter approval. So, we encourage everyone to not be confused by the ballot wording and be sure and vote yes for the VATRE.”

COVID sick days approved

Trustees approved 10 COVID-19 paid sick days for staff members, in addition to their regular sick days.

A positive PCR COVID test or admission or discharge paperwork from a hospital showing a COVID diagnosis is required to qualify for the sick days.

The board also approved the purchase of five school buses from Thomas Bus Texas for a total of $523,050.

Chief Financial Officer Ben Pape said the district had already budgeted for three of the buses and the other two will be paid for by ESSER funds.

Rhodes said the buses will replace five of the district’s 10 buses that are more than 25 years old. He said NISD has a total of 46 buses, five of which are for special needs students.

Substitute teachers for NISD will see a pay raise as early as Oct. 1 after the board approved that agenda item.

Short-term degreed substitute teachers will earn $120 per day, which is an increase of $20. Non-degreed short-term substitutes will see an increase from $80 to $90 per day.

Pay for long-term substitute teachers will increase $50 per day, with degreed teachers earning $200 per day and non-degreed substitutes earning $140 per day.

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