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Alvord ISD gets a high B on FIRST report

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, November 8, 2014
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The folks in Austin love to create “report card” evaluation instruments for school districts.

The Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) is exactly that – a compilation of financial data from school districts’ audits and other information they submit on spending in various areas, debt service, reserves, etc.

This year, Alvord ISD got 63 out of a possible 72 points – 87.5 if it were a 100-point scale.

Superintendent Bill Branum reported the numbers to the school board Tuesday night.

“The area we cannot get – ever, the way it’s currently comprised – has to do with debt service,” Branum said this week.

He said given Alvord’s size, and the amount of bonded indebtedness the district took on a few years ago to build the new middle and high school campuses, the district is likely to be “over the cap” per student for a long time.

“There’s nothing we can do about that,” he said. “We’re just out of luck. We have to pay the debt, and we’re well able to pay it.”

He said the only other area where points were deducted is in the classification of debt service payments.

Alvord ISD used “maintenance tax notes” to pave parking lots and make other improvements over the past couple of years. Those, the auditor said, should be paid out of a debt fund in the budget, not out of a maintenance fund.

“We looked at it as deferred maintenance, like with the parking lots,” Branum said. “We didn’t go out and, from scratch, build new parking lots. We took the existing parking lots and poured concrete on them. But they look at it differently.

“We’ll make sure we pay it out of that account from now on.”

COMPENSATORY EDUCATION REPORT

Branum also reported to the board on the district’s compensatory education report – another state-required document that highlights what districts are doing with state funds they receive.

“They asked us to develop a plan of needs within each of those programs,” Branum said.

The district then put together a group of employees to target each of the programs, on each campus, assess needs and develop a plan to meet those needs, then come up with evaluative methods to be able to measure the success of each of those programs at the end of the year.

“State compensatory education funds are used to build up areas where kids need extra work,” Branum said. “We’re trying to get each student on or above grade level in a timely way.” The board’s next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 20.

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