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Future of longtime Rusk Co. tax at stake in election

A longstanding Rusk County tax may be challenged if a Kilgore man is elected to the Rusk County Countywide School Board after the Nov. 3 election.

Dale Hedrick of Kilgore is running for the At-Large seat on the Rusk County Countywide School Board and his opposition is Henderson’s Dwain Knight.

“I’ve spent several years researching this tax and educating the taxpayers of Rusk County on how this tax has become a subsidy to school districts around our county,” Hedrick said, in a statement to the News Herald. “For those school districts that cross into neighboring counties, this extra tax has become a penalty to Rusk County! My goal and pledge to you is to work for the elimination of this subsidy tax that is both misunderstood and outdated. I would sincerely appreciate your vote in this upcoming election!”

Knight, who is employed at Crawford–A. Crim Funeral Home in Henderson, told the News Herald on Friday his motivation for running for the At-Large seat.

“The reason I’m running is because I have an interest in education,” Knight said. “I’ve taught school for 27 years and I’m a product of public school so I’m very much interested in the success of the students of Rusk County and students in general. As a consequence, I wanted to give back and I wanted to help in any way that I could to ensure success in schools in the area.”

And why voters should choose him for the seat?

“I’m sure there’s several good candidates that are running,” Knight said. “I’ve met Mr. Hedrick, I’ve sat in the room with him and I’m aware of the other gentleman that may or may not be interested in the board. I would say that my time here, my participation in the education business and a desire to do what’s right for the people of Rusk County, that’s the qualification that I have.”

Also on the ballot for the school board but in a different race – not against Knight or Hedrick – is Phil Patterson, also of Kilgore, who is running unopposed for the Precinct 1 seat.

The equalization tax was the main topic at a meeting of the board in August 2019, which, according to the News Herald’s story at the time, revealed some of the underlying discord surrounding the decades-old county school equalization tax.

On one hand, the tax – about $26.50 per year on a $100,000 home – helps fuel school budgets at 13 districts operating in the county. At the same time, a growing group of taxpayers is questioning a tax that, in some cases, sees residents paying twice into the same public coffers.

The meeting included a series of 4-1 votes as trustee John Carter dissented, unsatisfied with answers to a list of questions he prepared for the day.

Carter, a Kilgore resident, asked for ‘refined’ Average Daily Attendance numbers reported by the 13 Rusk County school districts that receive a portion of the tax and questioned how funding is being used.

“It should be earmarked money to begin with, not going into the general fund,” Carter insisted.

“That’s not our responsibility,” board Worth Whitehead countered. Whitehead was the holder of the seat in which Knight and Hedrick are now running, but Whitehead opted not to run again.

“Yessir, it is,” Carter insisted, “because that comes back on you.”

No, trustee Tommy Freeman said, “It’s on them.”

For Whitehead, “Our responsibility is to get the money to the schools that need it.”

Based on reported Average Daily Attendance numbers of students who reside in Rusk County and attended schools there in 2017-2018, Kilgore ISD was to receive $141,468.94 of $967,532.89 in on-hand collections as of July 1, 2019. Henderson ISD was to receive $354,848.69 from the countywide school equalization tax.

Other districts on the school board’s distribution schedule ranged from Cushing ISD ($3,210) to $135,733 for Tatum ISD based on reported ADA.

The trustees’ budget left $2,000 in the account for operations of the Rusk County School Board, per standard operating procedure. Notably, the 2019-2020 budget for the school board included an additional administrative expense of $12,639.21 for “Compressor Lawsuit,” a similar loss to other taxing entities across the state following a 2018 ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that changed the way the state taxes natural gas compressors.

The ’19-20 budget was otherwise unchanged and was approved with a 4-1 vote.

Hedrick and another Kilgore resident, Dana Pearce, were among a handful of taxpayers who attended that meeting and took an opportunity to speak on the tax.

It’s difficult to find information on the countywide tax, the school board and its budget, Pearce said.

Without that kind of transparency, “It seems like this is a rather shadowy group,” she added. “I just want to be able to learn.”

IT'S THE GREAT... well, you know | Popular pumpkin patch preps for run, contest

St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in downtown Kilgore started their pumpkin patch over two decades ago, likely with little thought of how much a part of October it would become.

The patch, which allows kids to have pictures made with the sets and purchase a pumpkin of about any size imaginable, opens Oct. 1, where folks come out and help unload the pumpkins, and stays open the entire month, every day until 6 p.m. Oct. 31. This is the 22nd year for the patch.

The church is located at 401 East Main, Kilgore, and the patch is right alongside the Main Street side of the church.

It’ll be a busy Saturday there next weekend, on Saturday, Oct. 24. They’re having a pumpkin carving contest and pumpkin glow that night, but that morning, they’ll host their third annual 5K pumpkin run/walk, and they’re also doing a virtual run/ walk this year.

Entry fee to do either is $25, but it goes up after this Sunday. The race will start at 8 a.m. in front of the pumpkin patch and follow a relatively flat course through downtown Kilgore before finishing back at the church, the website notes. Packet pickup starts at 7:30 a.m. before the race, and proceeds will be used by the church’s youth group to engage in mission activities.

As for the pumpkin carving contest and pumpkin glow, that’ll be next Saturday night at 6. Obviously, don’t bring your own pumpkin; that’s taken care of, and there will be pumpkins on sale at a discounted price, and carving tools for use in the contest.

All proceeds from the pumpkin patch support local and church mission projects.

KISD prepares for Red Ribbon Week Oct,.26-30

Kilgore ISD will spread a message of drug prevention the week of October 26-30, with their annual “Red Ribbon Week” festivities.

Red Ribbon Week is a national drug-prevention effort created by National Family Partnership, formerly the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth. According to the Red Ribbon Week website, it was established as a grassroots, nonprofit organization in 1980 by a handful of concerned and determined parents who were convinced they should begin to play a leadership role in drug prevention.

Students at different campuses will take part in various activities, including dressing up to match different themes, at KISD campuses to mark the weeklong event and to show school spirit.

KISD school board trustees approved the week of celebrations and drug awareness education for the week of Oct. 26-30.

“All of your different campuses are doing some different activities throughout that week. As part of that...you guys are signing a proclamation to support those activities and a resolution showing your support for this. You’re showing your support for all your campuses and all your students and all your staff members for this national Red Ribbon campaign,” said Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker at a Sept. 28 board meeting, where the proclamation was approved unanimously.

At Kilgore High School, each day brings a different attire, or set of criteria.

Monday, October 26 will be Color Your World Drug Free; colors vs. monochrome day. The idea is for students to dress in their favorite bright colors, or in black, white or gray.

Tuesday, October 27 is Team up Against Drugs day; they should wear attire to support their favorite team.

We Mustache You Not To Do Drugs is Wednesday, October 28; students are to draw on their choice of “mustache” or “beard,” or wear their own… hmmm.

Thursday, October 29 is Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself day. That’s checkered clothing versus plaid clothing.

And Friday, October 30 wraps it up, with We are All Over Drugs day – students are to wear red or white (Kilgore’s colors), with spirit overalls.

Kilgore Intermediate will have I’m Too Bright to Do Drugs day on Oct. 26, to wear neon clothing. Tuesday, Oct. 27, they’ll wear crazy socks for Doing Drugs is Crazy day. Drugs Aren’t In My Future day, for future career or college clothing. Thursday, Oct. 29 is Check Yourself Drug Free day, for the checkered and plaid battle, as at KHS. And Friday, Oct. 30 is Say Boo to Drugs, a costume day.

Kilgore Primary and Chandler Elementary are doing this criteria: On Monday, Oct. 26, it’s Follow Your Dreams and Put Drugs to Sleep day, otherwise known as wear pajamas. Tuesday, Oct. 27 is Give Drugs the Boot day – western wear for the students. Wednesday, Oct. 28 is Be a hero, not a Zero day, and students can wear superhero outfits. Thursday, Oct. 29 is Our Future is Too Bright for Drugs day, where they were future career clothing or a college shirt. And Friday, Oct. 30 at Primary is costume day, otherwise known as Say Boo To Drugs.

Since its founding 30 years ago, NFP has devoted its efforts to the well-being of youth. Today, NFP is a national leader in drug prevention education and advocacy.

NFP provides drug awareness by sponsoring the annual National Red Ribbon Campaign. Since its beginning in 1985, the Red Ribbon has touched the lives of millions of people around the world.

In response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, angered parents and youth in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction cause by drugs in America.

In 1988, NFP sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration. Today, the Red Ribbon serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities.

East Texas API tourney Oct. 30

A golf tournament that has been helping fund tuition for college students for over a half-century is having its latest incarnation of that event later this month.

The East Texas Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute has been having a forum here in Kilgore three times a year for members of the oil and gas industry to exchange ideas, including new production technology. The East Texas API also holds fundraisers each year to help them fund college scholarships for children of people in the industry, and one of them is an annual golf tournament.

This year’s tournament will be Friday, Oct. 30, at Tempest Golf Club. The tournament is a four-man scramble format, with two sessions: one at 8 a.m., and one at 1 p.m.

Registration for the tournament is $175 per player, or $700 per team, on a world-class 18-hole course.

Vendors will be on the course, and there will be skill games at various holes, with prizes offered for winners. It’s limited to the first 64 teams that register (37 per session). Playing time preferences are first-come, first serve. Carts will be providing beverages on the course throughout the tournament.

In addition to the golf tournament, there will be a silent auction.

Companies and individuals may also participate as sponsors, while those spots remain: a picture board sponsorship is $250, and a hole sponsorship is $100.

Last year, this tournament provided scholarships for 25 students.

For more information, contact Amanda Wood at (903) 984-4814, or by checking out www.easttexasapi.com/golf.