The Brenham School Board adopted the school district budget and tax rate and selected a firm to conduct the search for a new superintendent at a four-hour meeting on Monday.
The total budget of $60,839,217 was passed on a 5-2 vote, with trustees Kyle Hafner and Archer Archer voting against. The tax rate of $0.7693 per $100 valuation was approved unanimously.
The budget comes with an estimated revenue shortfall of $4,580,194. It assumes no enrollment growth from the end of this past school year and does not include pay raises for teachers.
During a public hearing that lasted about 45 minutes, trustees commented on the difficulty of the situation. Hafner wanted to see if there were any more places the district could make reductions, while Archer called the deficit “scary” and said he could not support a budget in this manner.
Board President Natalie Lange said Brenham ISD “desperately” needs its basic allotment from the state for average daily attendance to increase, given the high inflation in recent years. Trustee Tommie Sullivan said it hurt his heart to have to tell teachers that the district cannot give them a raise, but reassured that Brenham ISD will overcome this. Trustee Bonnie Brinkmeyer said the board and district will do everything they can to take care of the kids.
The approved tax rate consists of $0.6893 for maintenance and operations and $0.08 for interest and sinking. It is the highest tax rate that could be approved without needing to be passed by voters, but actually falls below the calculated no-new-revenue rate of $0.920898 per $100.
If Texas voters pass the $100,000 homestead exemption approved by legislators in their most recent special session, this will mean a reduction in taxes for the average home. The tax levy on a home valued at $200,000 would decrease by $726 from the previous year, while a home valued at $300,000 would see its tax levy reduced by $891.
Trustees also voted 5-2 to engage with the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Executive Search Services to lead the effort to find a successor for Dr. Tylor Chaplin, who will retire from his role as Brenham ISD’s superintendent at the end of December. Hafner and Archer voted against.
The board listened to three presentations lasting over an hour from TASB, Rhonda Crass of Leasor Crass, P.C. and Sheryl Moore of Leon Alcala, PLLC. After the presentations, trustees debated for roughly half an hour on which direction they wished to pursue.
The cost for each firm was $6,500 plus additional cost for expenses like mileage for Leasor Crass, which is based out of Mansfield; $6,500 all-inclusive for Sheryl Moore, who is a retired superintendent from Sealy ISD; and $7,800 all-inclusive for TASB.
At the beginning of the meeting, several residents came forward during public comment to discuss the superintendent search, with some suggesting to try a different method rather than a search firm. One of those who spoke was State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, who said trustees need to be able to retain the final say in reviewing applicants, rather than the outside firm. A letter written by Kolkhorst to the board can be read here.
Hafner and Archer were both in favor of Leasor Crass because of the firm’s emphasis on local control. Lange, Sullivan and Jared Krenek vocalized their support of TASB, given its larger resources and prior experience with Brenham ISD. The school district engaged with TASB to hire Dr. Walter Jackson as its superintendent in 2015.