NEWS HEADLINES

Chico test scores remain high, but funding sinks

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chico school board members heard a little good news on test scores before they had to wade into the more sobering subject of finances at Monday’s meeting.

Superintendent Mike Jones presented the board with preliminary STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) results. The board reviewed a three-year comparison of the district’s scores as well as a comparison to the state average scores.

“We’re very proud of the fact that 77 percent of the time we met or exceeded the state scores,” Jones said, adding that teachers and students are to be congratulated for their hard work.

A more detailed report of Chico’s test scores, and scores for other schools around the county, will be featured in an upcoming issue of the Messenger.

Jones also presented the board with preliminary tax values for the district, which were calculated at $591,708,057 by the Wise County Appraisal District. Certified values are due to be released at the end of July. Even if the values increase, Jones said he doesn’t expect it to help next year’s budget.

“We don’t anticipate values going up a great deal,” he said. “We might have a modest increase, but even if it does go up, it won’t help us much due to recapture.”

Because Chico is a Chapter 41 “property-rich” district, it is required by state law to send money to the state to help poorer schools.

If the district maintains its current payroll and salaries, it is looking at a deficit of close to $200,000. That deficit is due mostly to a reduction in state funding, Jones said. Schools have been receiving funding from the state in the form of state aid for tax reduction, but Jones said the state is phasing that out. Schools are scheduled to receive none of that funding by the 2017-2018 school year.

Jones cautioned that the budget talk was preliminary, and the district will look at ways to reduce that deficit.

In other business, the board:

  • reviewed the results of the annual climate survey. The survey is taken by parents, teachers and students. Jones said the results are intended to give an overall evaluation of the school climate and looks to identify areas where improvements can be made.
  • took no action on authorizing Jones to offer probationary contracts to fill vacant teaching and coaching positions through Aug. 18, 2014, after a 3-3 vote.

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