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A couple of Paris Economic Development Corp. board members made a last-ditch effort to keep funding for a retail marketer in the PEDC budget, but were voted down.
“I would suggest we keep the Retail Attractions portion of the budget intact when we send it back,” board member Bruce Carr said.
The Paris City Council rejected PEDC’s budget in June, directing the PEDC board to remove funding for Red River Region Business Incubator and Retail Attractions. A few weeks ago, Retail Attractions founder Rickey Hayes made a presentation to the City Council that Carr said “made a pretty compelling argument for somebody supporting some kind of retail marketing.”
“We have had a spurt of growth recently, and most of that is due to the work of Rickey Hayes,” board Vice-Chair Toni Clem said. “We have been doing it successfully, and no one else is stepping up to the plate.”
Retail Attractions is near the end of its third one-year agreement with PEDC, and Hayes is in the middle of at least one major retail development project, Executive Director Steve Gilbert said.
“When all this discussion began, Rickey and I talked, and we made an agreement to try to wrap up all the projects we had in an orderly fashion by the end of September because that’s all the time we knew we had,” he said.
PEDC didn’t need to pull the plug in the middle of such a large project, Carr said. If the board did continue funding, it should be a one-time thing rather than an ongoing arrangement, he said.
PEDC exists to create jobs in manufacturing and industry, board member David Turner said. He said as the organization is currently set up, it could not pay for retail marketing. He also reiterated the council’s stated position.
“They told us they’re not going to approve a budget with these two things in it,” Turner said. “Before we start shoving a budget back into their face contrary to what we were directed to do, I think it might be advisory to get some kind of opinion.”
Type A corporations like PEDC are allowed to spend up to 10 percent of revenue on promotions and marketing. For Paris, that would come to $120,000. Various attorneys have indicated the $33,000 PEDC has been spending on Retail Attractions is well within what the corporation is allowed, Clem said.
Board Chair Rebecca Clifford said PEDC has been spending more than 10 percent on promotions according to her analysis of the budget.
If the City Council believes Retail Attractions’ services are important enough, the city should fund Hayes’ work, Clifford said. Clem asked if she would go before the council as PEDC’s board president and make that suggestion.
“This is not a PEDC-type expenditure,” Clifford said.
The board also voted to ax $10,000 for Rachel Schory, a part-time contract employee whose duties include grant writing and some website maintenance. Last month, Clifford criticized the PEDC website for dead links, blank pages and outdated information.
“I think we can do that in-house or locally,” board member Vicki Ballard said. Schory telecommutes for her work for PEDC, as she does not live in the Paris area.
Gilbert said most of her work has been for grant writing, which kept her busy.
“I’m at a point with this budget – let’s do what we’re going to do and move on,” he said. “Arguing about this is wearing everybody out.”
“I agree with Steve,” Ballard said. “I’m sick of hearing about the budget.”
“We’re all sick of hearing about the budget,” Clem said.
Carr made a motion to approve the budget without the business incubator or Schory that retained Retail Attractions “for this time and this time only.” Clem seconded the motion. Clifford, Turner and Ballard voted against.
After that, Carr made another motion to approve a budget without all three, seconded by Turner. It passed 4-1 with Clem the dissenting vote.
After voting yes, Turner, who had crossed to the other side of the room for a moment asked: “What was I voting on?”
The revised budget went from $600,000 to $467,000 in expenses.
Part of the budget involves implementation of a business plan that began in January 2012. Carr said a lot of work went into that plan. He suggested some of the newer members may want to take the time to familiarize themselves with the business plan.
Rather than slashing the budget, Carr said, it would be better to take time to review PEDC’s finances and paring expenses that could be cut over the coming months.
“You don’t do that by hacking away at it,” he said.
Clifford asked Carr and Turner to work on that and report back to the board. In addition, Carr will work with Ballard to review PEDC operating policies.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra
Renovations to the Lamar County Services Building are expected to begin in a month and won’t cost as much as previously thought.
The project should cost $38,600, County Judge Chuck Superville said Monday. That includes $21,654 for asbestos removal, $3,850 for an on-site consultant during the abatement, $9,140 for carpet, $2,500 for carpentry work to replace a floor upstairs and $1,500 for Tom Glossup, the county’s construction manager.
Original estimates for the project were $24,075. A few hundred square feet were added to the work, but Glossup said at the last Commissioners Court the square footage and cost estimate had more than doubled to $50,805. At the time, no one knew exactly how that had happened.
“The price doubled because somebody told Carpet World to include the hallways, too,” he said Monday. “I got that straightened out, and it went from 641 yards to 432 yards.”
“That’s better than the number we got last time,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Lawrence Malone said.
Work is expected to begin Sept. 13, starting with asbestos abatement, and will take about a week to complete.
“I’d like to start them on the first floor rather than the second floor so Haskell (Maroney, the tax assessor-collector) can get his office open as quickly as possible,” Glossup said.
The tax assessor’s drive through could be open part of the week, he said.
“Is this project moving in the direction it needs to go?” Superville asked. “I see heads nodding.”
“Let’s go,” Elections Administrator Russ Towers said.
Sheriff Scott Cass also updated commissioners on work to improve the jail showers.
“They had some water problems in our men’s shower,” Superville said. “We were able to get stainless steel fitted into each shower area. It has stopped the water.”
The work cost $11,000. Work is about to start on the individual showers to have them coated with something similar to a pickup bed liner.
In other business:
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra
North Lamar High School will hold a new “fish camp” Thursday for incoming freshmen.
Panthers FIRST (Freshmen Individually Responsible for Success Today) orientation is set for 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the high school.
Students will attend eight sessions until noon, when a pizza lunch with door prizes and games will follow. The sections include:
Paris Independent School District’s new Department of Safety and Security is ready to go to work when school starts in a couple of weeks.
“It will allow you as a school district more of a say in how everything is done,” Brad Ruthart, director of the PISD Department of Safety and Security, told the school board Monday. “It gives us the ability to conduct things the way we want. We can be a lot more proactive in some situations, which will be an asset.”
The district is still waiting for its certification from Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. Superintendent Paul Jones said there’s a backlog of about 30 school districts. That won’t delay DSS operations, though.
“We have hired six safety and security officers,” Jones said. “All of them are T-CLEOSE certified. They are police officers licensed to carry a firearm on school property.”
Board members approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Paris, which includes mutual aid and support between both departments.
The board also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Paris Police Department to delineate the duties of PISD’s officers:
The memorandum acknowledges that both the DSS and police department have overlapping jurisdiction and says the idea is “ to create a cooperative atmosphere between them and to assist one another in the notification and investigation of certain criminal offenses occurring within the territorial jurisdictions of the two entities.”
The MOU outlines communication duties between the two departments, such as accidents or felonies. It also says PISD will notify the police department before releasing information to the media regarding an incident investigated by PISD.
The agreement outlines the duties in case of investigations, including:
Board President George Fisher asked if having those officers on each campus meant there might be assault rifles secured somewhere at school. Several officers have personal AR-15s, Ruthart said. Some may keep one secured and locked up on campus.
Jones said he understood the issue, but officers need to have the right tools for the job, and perpetrators may have their own assault weapons.
“A pistol is like going to gun fight with a knife,” he said.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra
North Lamar Independent School District and each individual school have met the required standards in the new Texas Education Agency accountability rating system.
The new system replaces the previous ratings of exemplary, recognized, acceptable and academically unacceptable with met standard, needs improvement or not rated.
The rating is gained through four indexes: Index 1, Student Achievement; Index 2, Student Progress; Index 3, Closing Performance Gaps; Index 4, Postsecondary Readiness. The district and each campus is rated on the first three, while the high school and district as a whole are also graded on Index 4. Ratings are given on a 100-point scale.
NLISD earned a 79 on student achievement. The target score was 50. Of the four, this index is closest to the old rating system. Looking at all the tests together, 79 percent of all students met the standard required for last school year. That includes 65 percent in African-American, 72 percent Hispanic, 80 percent white, 75 percent American Indian, 77 percent in two or more races, 64 percent of special education students, 71 percent economically disadvantaged and 60 percent of English language learners.
The same standard will be used for the coming year, but requirements will be raised in the year after that. Level II is what will indicate satisfactory academic performance, while Level III is considered advanced performance. The TEA’s reports measure all three levels, although there is overlap between them – any student who measured at Level II or above will be included in those who met standard, and any students at Level III will be in both the other groups.
Of the student population, 32 percent reached Level II or above, and 10 percent met Level III.
In reading, 83 percent met the standard, while 41 percent scored at Level II or above and 15 percent scored at Level III.
On the math test, 84 percent met standard, 32 percent Level II and 11 percent Level III.
In writing, 63 percent met the standard. Thirty percent met or exceeded Level II and 3 percent scored at Level III.
In science, 83 percent met the standard, 30 percent scored at Level II and 8 percent met the advanced criteria.
Of the social studies test takers, 71 percent met standard while 17 percent scored at or above Level II and 6 percent scored at Level III.
North Lamar ISD earned a 31 in student progress, with a target of 21. Index 2 is designed to measure whether a student has met the amount of progress expected on a particular test and uses some complex formulas to quantify it. The numbers include percentages of those who met or exceeded the expected progress and a percentage for those who exceeded – who were also included in the original group.
On the reading test, 59 percent met or exceeded performance and 12 percent exceeded performance. For math, 53 percent met or exceeded and 13 percent exceeded. In writing, 39 percent met the standard and none exceeded.
The district achieved a 68 in closing performance gaps, with a target score of 55. Index 3 measures how well a district or campus is closing the gap in performance among subgroups. The indicator looks at economically disadvantaged and the two lowest performing groups from the previous year. For North Lamar, that was African-American and those of two or more races.
NLISD’s grade on postsecondary readiness was an 80, with a 75 required to meet the standard. Index 4 is based on graduation and dropout rates. The indicator includes both four-year and five-year graduation rates, for those students who may need an extra year to finish. The district had a 90.4 percent graduate within four years, including 58.5 percent on a recommended or distinguished plan. The five-year rate is 96.5 percent, with 58.5 percent on a distinguished or recommended plan.
AARON PARKER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Aaron Parker met standard on the three indexes it is graded on:
On all subjects, 79 percent met the standard, 27 percent met or exceeded Level II and 8 percent scored at Level III.
In reading, 86 percent met standard, 31 percent scored at Level II or higher and 14 percent met the advanced level.
On math, 80 percent met the standard while 25 percent met or exceeded Level II and 7 percent scored at Level III.
In writing, 63 percent met the standard. Thirty-seven percent met Level II or better. Three percent scored at Level III.
In social studies, 72 percent met the standard, 15 percent Level II and 3 percent Level III.
In measuring student progress, numbers were only available for reading and math. In reading, 54 percent met or exceeded progress while 9 percent exceeded. In math, 55 percent met or exceeded while 23 percent exceed progress.
HIGGINS ELEMENTARY/EVERETT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
These campuses were paired together for ratings and met the standard for student performance and closing performance gaps. The schools were not graded on student progress.
In all subjects, 83 percent met the standard, 38 percent scored at or above Level II and 14 percent scored at Level III.
In reading, 89 percent met standard, 43 percent met Level II and 16 percent met Level III.
On the math test, 76 percent met standard, 34 percent scored at Level II or higher and 13 percent scored at Level III.
BAILEY INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL
Bailey met the standards on all three indexes:
When looking at all subjects, 87 percent met standard. Forty-five percent scored at Level II or higher, and 18 percent scored at the advanced level.
In reading, 90 percent met standard, 46 percent met Level II and 23 percent hit Level III.
In math, 93 percent met standard, including 51 percent who scored at Level II or better and 23 percent who scored at Level III.
For writing, 79 percent met the standard. Of those, 44 percent scored at or above Level II and 6 percent met Level III.
On the science test, 74 percent met the standard. Thirty-four percent met Level II or higher. Seven percent scored at the advanced level.
In measuring student progress, 62 percent met or exceeded expectations on the reading test while 18 percent exceeded progress. On math, 72 percent met or exceeded progress and 29 percent exceeded.
STONE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Stone met standard on each of its three indexes:
Overall, 79 percent of students met the standard, with 34 percent reaching Level II and 11 percent reaching Level III.
In reading, 83 percent met the standard, including 42 percent who met or exceeded Level II and 16 percent who reached Level III.
On the math test, 84 percent met the standard. Thirty-four percent scored at or above Level II, and 7 percent scored at the advanced level.
In writing, 71 percent met the standard while 22 percent reached Level II and 3 percent reached Level III.
Of those taking science, 76 percent met the standard, 34 percent met or exceeded Level II and 9 percent met Level III requirements.
In social studies, 64 percent met the standard, 28 came in at or above Level II and 14 percent achieved Level III.
Student progress was measured in the reading and math tests. For reading, 59 percent met or exceeded progress, including 13 percent who exceeded progress. In math, 52 percent met or exceeded and 6 percent exceeded.
NORTH LAMAR HIGH SCHOOL
The high school earned distinction in academic achievement for reading/English language arts and mathematics and met standard on all four indexes:
Overall, 76 percent of students met the required standard in testing, including 25 percent who scored at or above Level II and 7 percent who scored at Level III.
In reading, 78 percent met the standard, 37 percent came in at or above Level II and 10 percent reached Level III.
In math, 81 percent met standard, 21 percent scored at Level II and 9 percent at Level III.
For the writing test, 53 percent met standard, 29 percent scored at Level II or above and 2 percent scored at Level III.
In science, 91 percent met the required standard. Twenty-eight percent met or exceeded Level II, including 8 percent who reached Level III.
In social studies, 74 percent met standard, 14 percent met or exceeded Level II and 3 percent met Level III.
In measuring student progress, 56 percent met or exceeded progress in reading and 7 percent exceeded. On the math test, 14 percent met or exceeded progress and 1 percent exceeded. In writing, 39 percent met progress but none exceeded.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra