Sep

21

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 21, 2016

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
KAUFMAN–The Kaufman County Commissioners adopted the 2017 fiscal year county budget, 3-2, Monday with commissioners Jimmy Vrzalik and Ken Schoen opposed. Precinct 1 Commissioner Vrzalik described the reset salaries, expenses and other allowances of all elected county and precinct offices as “vastly unfair. No way the citizens of Kaufman County should support this,” he said.
The general fund totals $39,317,896, that’s a little more than $2,000,000 more than last year, reflective of $600 pay raises to all elected officials, along with allowances for cell phone expenses, use of personal car for justices of the peace; and longevity pay, most less than $100. Three noted exceptions are County Judge of $2,457.12, and $1,736 for Precincts 3 and 4 Justices of the Peace.
With a 97 percent tax collection rate, the county estimates collecting $31,245,704. Additional revenues from fees, sales tax on mixed drinks sales, interest, and other revenues, such as a federal contract to house prisoners adds another $8.8M.
The commissioners adopted a tax rate of 58.87 cents per $100 of taxable property value, which is estimated to raise $4,530,386.44, an increase of 10.81 percent of which $1,136,938.41 comes from new property added to the tax roll this year. The tax rate reflects a 2.18 percent increase over last year’s rate. Within that rate structure the portion set aside for road and bridge funding increased from 8.67 cents per $100 to 9.20 cents.
The sole person addressing the commissioners during the last public hearing on the budget came from Precinct 3 Constable Keith Stephens, who opposed losing funding for a part-time position that would impact the office’s work load of serving 538 papers so far this year. Earlier, Stephens had resisted aiding the tax office in Terrell in making daily bank deposit runs on its behalf. Precincts 1 and 2 constables said they would do it, so commissioners split a $20,000 funding for the part-time position between the two willing constable offices to make the deposits in Precinct 3, Judge Wood explained to The Monitor.
In other business, commissioners:
• changed the personnel handbook regarding the rehire of former retired employees to stipulate a minimum of three calendar months since retiring before rehiring.
• reappointed Randy Richards as Kaufman County Fire Marshal
• approved the purchase of issued handguns at 50 percent fair market value to retiring officers Keith Ramsey and Tim Spillman for $218.33.
• adopted the County Clerk’s Records Archive Plan of charging a $10 fee until 2019 for the recording of documents.
• approved a memorandum of understanding with North Central Texas Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging, where the county contributes $13,000 and gets back $300,000 worth of services. “Seems a pretty good deal for the citizens of Kaufman County,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Ken Schoen said.

Sep

21

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 21, 2016

 Special to The Monitor
AUSTIN–The Texas Education Agency this week announced that 24 school districts and charters that achieved a Met Standard rating in the 2016 state accountability ratings have also received a distinction designation for postsecondary readiness. Among them is Malakoff ISD.
 “We are very excited to receive this news from the TEA,” Malakoff Superintendent Randy Perry said. “Postsecondary readiness is any area that has been a focus for Malakoff ISD.”
The postsecondary readiness distinction – the only distinction at the district level under the state accountability system – takes into account factors such as graduation rates, ACT/SAT participation and performance, Career and Technical Education (CTE) graduates, and dual-credit course completion rates.
Other school districts and charters earning a postsecondary readiness distinction in 2016 are as Carroll ISD, Cisco ISD, Clifton ISD, Cross Plains ISD, Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, Harmony School of Excellence (Houston), Harmony School of Science (Houston), Haskell ISD, Kerrville ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Lovejoy ISD, Milano ISD, Miles ISD, NYOS Charter School (Austin), Panola Charter School, Pilot Point ISD, Prairie Valley ISD, Sharyland ISD, Smyer ISD, South Texas ISD, Sundown ISD, Vanguard Academy (Pharr) and Wall ISD.
 Carroll ISD, Kerrville ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Sharyland ISD, and South Texas ISD earned the postsecondary distinction for the third consecutive year. These districts have earned the distinction every year it has been part of the state accountability system.
 Last month, TEA released the 2016 state accountability ratings for more than 1,200 school districts and charters, as well as more than 8,600 campuses statewide. The ratings revealed that approximately 94 percent of school districts and charters across Texas have achieved the rating of Met Standard.
 To view the 2016 state accountability ratings and distinction designations for districts, charters and campuses, visit the Texas Education Agency website, tea. texas.gov/2016 Accountability.aspx.

Sep

16

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 16, 2016

Special to The Monitor
ATHENS–During a two-day operation, Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse and his team of narcotics investigators swarmed across acres of land finding 9,000 marijuana plants.
“This was a massive, coordinated production/growing operation,” Hillhouse said Thursday. “Too many people think having pot is a harmless crime, but this is a criminal organization that damages property owners’ land; and marijuana leads to other drugs.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been recently operating in East Texas, targeting hidden marijuana-growing undertakings. Smith, Anderson, Van Zandt and now Henderson counties have been targeted.
“We found evidence of people recently at the scene of the crimes here,” the Sheriff said.
There were 6,387 individual plants growing at one site alone and 2,623 individual plants in various stages of maturity at another site nearby.
“This is no fly-by-night venture. These are professional criminals who hide their activities on the land of unsuspecting ranch owners,” Hillhouse said.
Because many properties in the county are used for hunting only or are owned by people who do not live here full-time, large swaths of property provide the perfect place for this sort of illegal activity.
This was a major multi-agency operation.
“The DEA has been very helpful locating these fields from the air and these teams of officers from multiple agencies have done a wonderful job handling the especially dangerous ground operation,” the Sheriff said. “Make no mistake, these are dangerous criminals who are too often heavily armed and willing to fight to protect their operations.”