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Students come before politics: Transgender restroom use not issue here
by Jason Collins
Aug 27, 2016 | 210 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Puig
Puig
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BEEVILLE – Bee County schools, for now, don’t have to comply with the federal regulations that either sex can use either bathroom, according to a federal ruling. Marc Puig, the new superintendent in Beeville, didn’t mince his words and wasn’t really concerned about this as an issue. “It is real simple,” he said. “As administrators, we are not in the habit of developing solutions for problems that don’t exist.” He said that he understood this was a political issue. He knew the background on it and that it was used by both sides to rile feathers but that he wasn’t going to spend time on it until a student requested it. As of now, no student has identified as transgender. “We are going to focus every day on providing a safe and healthy learning environment,” he said. However, if the law says it must be done, he would follow the law as it pertains to the district. “Let’s be reasonable and exercise common sense and compassion,” he said. Previously, then interim superintendent Erasmo Rodriguez said that the district would await guidance from the Texas Education Agency before considering the development or implementation of such policies. The TEA, in one report, suggested that districts utilize separate bathrooms for transgenders. “While separate unisex facilities may work for some transgender students, others may feel that such an arrangement negatively singles them out and isolates them from their peers,” according to a Texas Association of School Boards report earlier this year. Puig said that issues like this take the focus off education and on the topic du jour. “We don’t have an issue,” he reiterated. “Crafting a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist isn’t what we are going to do.” If an issue arises, Puig said school trustees and administrators would consult with their attorney before making a hasty decision. “This isn’t complicated,” he said. Just recently U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Obama administration from enforcing its bathroom directives against public schools across the country. Skidmore-Tynan ISD Superintendent Randy Hoyer said previously that he was taking a similar stand and would develop an alternative solution if the need arises. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton represents a 13-state coalition in the federal court lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas challenging the Obama administration’s federal directive that schools allow students to use whatever bathrooms and other intimate facilities they prefer. “We are pleased that the court ruled against the Obama administration’s latest illegal federal overreach,” Paxton said. “This president is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform. “That cannot be allowed to continue, which is why we took action to protect states and school districts, which are charged under state law to establish a safe and disciplined environment conducive to student learning.
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Mathis ISD trustees approve tax rate and 2016-2017 budget
Aug 27, 2016 | 18 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Mathis ISD Board of School Trustees approved the 2016-2017 tax rate and budget at a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Aug. 15. The 2016 district property tax rate increased $.03 to $1.434669 per $100 property evaluation. The district tax rate is divided into the Maintenance and Operations tax (M&O) and the School Debt Service tax (Debt Service). The M&O tax pays for district maintenance and operations. The Debt Service tax pays for the bonded indebtedness approved by district voters. The proposed M&O tax is $1.17 per $100 property tax evaluation; the proposed Debt Service tax is $0.264669 per $100 property tax evaluation. The total appraised value of all property in the district decreased to $333,041,889 from last year’s appraised value of $363,600,939. The appraised value decrease was driven by reduced oil and gas related revenue. Mathis ISD is primarily located in San Patricio County and extends into Live Oak County and Bee County. San Patricio County valuations were $289,041,889; Live Oak County valuations were $40,170,406; and Bee County valuations were $5,519,490. The Board approved the 2016-2017 budget of $17,782,838. The budget includes expense reductions in transportation costs and in the reduction of consulting, substitute teacher and elimination of certain stipend costs. The district introduced new teacher pay scales, new longevity stipends and an equalized step pay scale for all paraprofessional and auxiliary staff. Mathis ISD is among the top five paying school districts in the ESC 2 region.
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Retired judge received honors for civil service
Aug 27, 2016 | 380 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Contributed photo.Don Emilio displays the picture of Congressman Rub..n Hinojosa presenting the General Zaragoza Society's invitation to their 2002 Cinco de Mayo celebration to then President George Bush. He had accepted, but travel restrictions after 9-1-1 forced him to cancel.
Contributed photo.Don Emilio displays the picture of Congressman Rub..n Hinojosa presenting the General Zaragoza Society's invitation to their 2002 Cinco de Mayo celebration to then President George Bush. He had accepted, but travel restrictions after 9-1-1 forced him to cancel.
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Son of a Mexican immigrant farm-worker, retired Judge Emilio Vargas Jr. has met five U.S. and two Mexican presidents. In 2005, the Goliad Post Office was named to honor him. Don Emilio’s story is a Goliad history lesson. His grandfather, a rancher and judge in Mier y Noriega, Nuevo León, foresaw in 1907 that Mexico was on the verge of revolution and sent his 17-year-old son Emilio Vargas to San Marcos, Texas, where other family members had previously immigrated. Emilio’s mother’s family from the same town was drawn to San Marcos by claims that money was “lying on the ground.” What WAS on the ground was cotton to pick. Both the Tobías and Vargas families worked as share croppers, eventually settling in Goliad, where Don Emilio’s parents were married and raised six children. Emilio, Sr. was very proud of his Mexican heritage, reciting poems and telling stories about his patria. He often wrote letters in Spanish for less-educated neighbors. However, his allegiance was to the United States. He volunteered to serve in World War I but was told his service as a farmer was more important. The Vargas family acquired an early radio, and many neighbors came to their home to listen to a Mexico City station. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Emilio, Sr. gave his children and neighbors a geography lesson, showing them on his map where the news was occurring. The Vargas family belonged to Goliad’s Sociedad Mutualista de Cuahtémoc, formed in the 1920’s to provide assistance to needy people; there was no welfare then. Such societies had been organized throughout the Southwest, with the first one in San Francisco raising funds in the late 1860s, through a Cinco de Mayo celebration, to help Benito Juárez in his struggle to rid Mexico of its French emperor, Maximilian. In the 1940s the Goliad Sociedad learned that Ignacio Zaragoza, the Cinco de Mayo hero, was born in Texas, but they didn’t know where. In 1941, when Goliad historian William Neyland researched in Mexico City archives, he learned that the Mexican general was born in La Bahía. In 1944, the Sociedad changed its name to the General Zaragoza Society, with Carlos Reyes as president and Vargas, Sr., vice president. They began organizing Cinco de Mayo celebrations; young Emilio, Jr. acquired his love of history from those early meetings. In the 1960s, when Elisa de la Garza learned that the Zaragoza Society was searching for the location of the hero’s birthplace, the elderly woman led members through the brush near the ruins of Presidio La Bahía and pointed out the site. Her father had been a childhood friend of Ignacio’s. When the men cleared the brush and began digging, they located the foundations of the house. After acquiring the land, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reconstructed the structure on the original foundation, dedicating it on May 5, 1976. Emilio’s older sister, Abigail Vargas Carbajal, longtime president of the Zaragoza Society, not only worked for the birthplace reconstruction, but also advocated for a statue of the famous general, which the Mexican state of Puebla donated in 1980. When Emilio graduated from high school in 1954, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in northern Japan, then in Wichita Falls. When his military service ended, he and a friend applied for jobs at South Texas industrial plants. The friend, whose surname was Shaw, was offered a job, but Vargas wasn’t. However, when Shaw reported to work and the employer saw his Mexican-American features, he was fired. Emilio decided that he needed to fight against discrimination. He registered to vote, which at that time required paying a poll tax. Through the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations, he met Dr. Héctor García of Corpus Christi, who encouraged him to register people to vote. He was eventually employed by the Department of Human Services; he was at the Job Corps in San Marcos in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson arrived by helicopter to sign his Higher Education Act—and walked directly to speak to Emilio. Back in Goliad, Vargas was elected to the school board, becoming its first Mexican-American president. He served 18 years—until his son and daughter-in-law were hired to teach in Goliad, and his resignation was required. After he retired from DHS in 1995, Emilio was elected Justice of the Peace, serving four terms. In addition to his long-time participation in the Zaragoza Society, he has worked with the Goliad Chamber of Commerce, Lion’s Club, Rotary, the Goliad Historical District and the local hospital board. His civic service earned him an invitation to Mexico City in 1999 to meet with President Ernesto Zedillo, along with 33 other Mexican Americans, at Los Pinos, the Mexican White House. The next year President Vicente Fox invited 300 U.S. citizens, including Emilio, to celebrate las Fiestas Patrias in the Zócalo—another memorable visit. In addition to LBJ, Emilio has met Presidents Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and both Bushes. He met Hillary when she was campaigning in the Valley in 2008, so he may be able to add another U.S. president to his list. His dream is to have both the U.S. and Mexican presidents attend a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Goliad.
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Falls City ISD budget hearing Monday, Aug. 29... Trustees work to cushion blow of plummeting tax roll
by William J. Gibbs Jr.
Aug 27, 2016 | 249 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Falls City ISD
Falls City ISD
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FALLS CITY – The continued volatility in the global petroleum market continues to hit home for the Falls City Independent School District, where a continued nosedive in mineral values has caused the tax roll to be cut nearly in half. Superintendent Todd Pawelek said last year, the value of all real property in the district was approximately $811 million. This year, that figure has fallen to $417 million. “When your property values decline, you must increase the tax rate to generate the same revenues,” he said. “No one on the school board wants to raise taxes, and we are taking all possible steps to keep our tax rate as low as possible.” The board has suggested a $3,124,370 spending plan, which would be funded by a proposed ad valorem tax rate of $1.698634 per $100 of taxable property value. This is 15.7 cents higher than the previous year’s rate. If the proposed rate is adopted, the average taxpayer would see their property-tax bill increase by $461.11. This is because the average taxable value of a home in the Falls City ISD rose from $88,654 to $107,510 — a difference of 21 percent. The tax rate includes $1.04 per $100 taxable value for the maintenance and operation side. This rate, collected to fund the district’s day-to-day operations, is the same as in the previous year, with the interest and sinking (debt service) portion experiencing the entirety of the increase. “We are currently working on restructuring our debt-service payments, so when we adopt our I&S tax rate, I believe it will be much lower than the proposed rate ...” Pawelek said. “After refinancing, our 2016 I&S tax rate should be very similar to the 2015 I&S rate. If the rate is brought back down to the current year’s level, the average tax bill would total $1,655.44 — $290.35 more than in 2015. Pawelek said the district continues to be judicious in its spending, as $400,000 has been cut over the past few years on the maintenance and operation side of the budget. “The biggest cut has been a reduction in staff,” he said. “Thankfully, we have been able to reduce staff through attrition. Everyone at the school is mindful of our current financial situation and has been working hard to minimize their spending.” A public hearing on the budget, after which the board will meet to adopt a spending plan, is set for Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, a budget summary can be viewed at www.fcisd.net. The tax rate is set for adoption in September.
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County may dip into reserves for $50K
by Tim Delaney
Aug 27, 2016 | 85 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
REFUGIO – County Commissioner Ann Lopez put the brakes on adopting a 2016-17 budget for the county on Tuesday morning, Aug. 23. The budget stopper was a full-time position that was unfilled in the Refugio County Treasurer’s Office, which left $15,600 sitting in the treasurer’s account for a full-time employee unspent. The budget workshops have been ongoing since May, and a deficit budget was filed Aug. 8 in the Refugio County Clerk’s Office. The shortfall amounted to $126,000. Refugio County Judge Bobby Blaschke said an Aug. 12 workshop closed the gap, leaving a deficit of $86,000. To close the gap, five full-time positions were changed to part-time positions, but $10,000 was put back into prisoner care. Also, the district attorney contributed $10,000. That left dipping into reserves to the amount of $50,000. Lopez said the unfilled full-time position in the treasurer’s office should be put back into reserves. Blaschke and Commissioner Gary Bourland said they did not understand that the position’s funds were to be put back into reserves at the last budget workshop. “In the interest of transparency, it should have been (put back in reserves),” Lopez said. County Treasurer Rita Trojcak said she remembers the conversation about the full-time position but not what was decided. “I can’t do anything with it anyway,” she said. The county has a hiring freeze currently. “I don’t think it has anything to do with transparency,” Blaschke said. Bourland made a motion to adopt the budget, but the motion failed for lack of a second. Adopting the 2016-17 budget was tabled for the commissioners court’s next meeting on Sept. 13. The tax rate also will be considered on Sept. 13, as well. But the county already is capped at 80 cents per $100 of property value, and likely, that will be the rate. Commissioners also approved de-obligating $1,000 from Bayside’s shoreline improvement project and re-obligating those funds to Bayside’s water quality project. Commissioners also approved an order for the general election on Nov. 8. Also, commissioners opted to let the burn ban expire on Friday, Aug. 26. After that date, the commissioners will consider extending the burn ban on Sept. 13. Lopez gave a report from the July meeting of the Council of Governments. She said an official from the South Texas regional office of the Department of Health informed members that the Zika carrying mosquito had bred with native mosquitoes. “We’re encouraged to keep spraying and prevent standing water – try and protect ourselves as much as possible. “We don’t have it here yet,” Lopez said. Bourland said he has used the mosquito wafers and they have worked well. He said he plans on spraying again immediately.
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