Kilgore ISD trustees discussed a wide range of topics Monday at the first school board meeting following the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

Topics included updates to ongoing district issues, policy updates and district accountability ratings.

Chief Financial Officer Revard Pfeffer provided trustees with an update on a heavy equipment lawsuit affecting school districts across Texas, including KISD.

"We found out that Galveston County Appraisal District lost a lawsuit that was basically driving this throughout the state just over a year ago. When they did, the appraisal district came out and started sharing information with every entity across the state. We started realizing how big this matter was,” Pfeffer said.

The lawsuit originated in 2011 when the state legislature changed the tax classification of oilfield gas compressors. The change meant that compressors would now be taxed in the county where their home yard was located, rather than in the county where the compressors were being used.

A years-long lawsuit followed and, in 2018, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of oil and gas companies, leaving school districts and city governments across the state on the hook for millions in tax repayments.

KISD has been setting money aside for this purpose.

Pfeffer said KISD had recorded the entire amount of money they thought they would owe in August 2018 -- $668,046.49

“We went ahead and took the, for lack of a better word, the hit on our books last year. We recorded the entire liability in the expense last year.”

He added the district still owed money to entities in Gregg and Rusk Counties.

“We’ve still got $65,391.26 sitting on the books as a payable to pay back entities that haven’t filed for their refunds yet.”

According to Pfeffer, interest rates on these amounts were averaging seven to 10 percent but some good news regarding the debts had recently come from state-level. 

House Bill 3, a massive school funding bill passed earlier this summer, includes a rider which says the state will pay back interest paid by school districts on the equipment lawsuits.

So far this year, KISD has paid more than $200,000 in interest on the lawsuit funds.

“We don’t know how, we don’t know the mechanism or how we’re going to go file those back yet but if it was paid in the 18-19 year or the 19-20 year, we’re going to get a file for that interest. There will be no expense. On Aug. 31, 2019, I’m going to put a receivable on the books for $220,000 from the state.”

Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker reviewed recently assigned district and campus accountability ratings distributed by Texas Education Agency.

KISD rated a “B” for their overall district rating, one step up from last year’s rating. The ratings are averages of three measures: student achievement, school progress and “Closing the Gaps”, a rating based on performance of certain student populations.

The ratings are largely based on student performance on annual STAAR assessment tests. Baker thanked students and teachers for the hard work they do at KISD but stated he did not like the rating system as it cannot fully account for all the educational activities going on at KISD.

“I am not a fan of the A-F system in any form or fashion...because a letter grade cannot begin to break down the things we do on every one of our campuses to help our kids achieve more. It has nothing to do with all of our extracurricular things that our kids do, nothing for our co-curricular events that we do, it doesn’t talk about our tutoring or all the extra time that our teachers put in helping our kiddos. It’s really based on that student achievement, which is a test that’s given on one day. We do so much more as a district for our kids and our staff and our community than they could ever possibly imagine,” Baker said.

“Are we happy with it? We’re happy for the success our teachers and kiddos had, in my opinion. Are we content with it? No. I think we can always do better. What it does do, it helps us to get some ideas and some scores we can start looking at so we can create our plan for the upcoming school year.”

Baker said a more formal presentation on the ratings will come at next month’s board meeting.

The board also voted to approve Policy Update 113, which included updates to several local school district policies, including school board policies, food and nutrition management policies and insurance and annuities management policies. 

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