Employees in the Robstown Independent School District could see some extra cash in their pockets in time for Christmas shopping, if a plan currently being weighed by district officials can be implemented in time.
The Robstown Independent School District Board of Trustees met Sept. 30 to discuss, among other items, the proposed method for distributing nearly $2 million in extra revenue expected to be created by the recently passed Tax Ratification Election.
While only four of the seven board members were in attendance for the meeting, the board room was filled to capacity with a standing-room-only crowd of district employees.
While waiting for a quorum of board members, Board president Adolfo Lopez addressed the crowd prior to opening the meeting. Lopez said he believed the large crowd had gathered because there were rumors circulating in the district that the board was moving back on a pre-election promise to spend all funds generated from the TRE on employee raises. Lopez said those rumors were false.
"There's a lot of questions that a lot of people have, there's questions the board members have, including myself. How we are going to distribute the money?" Lopez said. "Us four individuals here care about every one of you. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here."
Lopez, Eva Orona, Richard Gonzalez and Ernesto Gallegos were the only members in attendance at the Sept. 30 meeting.
District administration presented three proposals to the board for discussion at the meeting, ranging from $1.86 million in total cost to $1.69 million.
Madaline Caraway, a representative of the local chapter of the Texas State Teachers Association, told the board she supported the first option presented, although she asked that the district consider awarding higher raises to administrators, who do not receive mandatory step increases from the state.
Obregon said he plans to meet with Caraway, Armando Castro, President of the Association of Texas Professional Educators and Norma Rendon, president of the local American Federation of Teachers before bringing additional options to the board in a future meeting.
All three indicated last week that the district's personnel would prefer a single "lump-sum" distribution this year, while future years of funding could be built into salary increases.
Along with a decision on how to distribute the funding, the board will also need to decide when to distribute the funding. Information provided by Lopez and Obregon last week indicated the district will not receive the money from the TRE until Sept. 2011. Board members have discussed the possibility of borrowing approximately $2 million from the district's $7 million reserve fund to provide the salary increases and incentives immediately, and repaying the money when it comes in from the state next year.
Obregon said he hoped to have the first round of incentives distributed to employees by the week before Thanksgiving, a proposal that was met with a round of applause from the personnel at the meeting.
On Monday, board vice-president Osvaldo Romero said he and fellow board member Robert Tapia have received word from the Texas Education Agency that the district could receive the funds as early as January 2011, nine months earlier than the timeline discussed at the board meeting. Romero said he would recommend that the district work to receive the funding in January, and hold off on any distribution to employees to avoid borrowing from the district's reserve. Romero and Tapia had not discussed their information with Obregon or the rest of the board as of Monday.
In other business, the board also voted to terminate Juan Perales as the district's attorney. Perales was hired by the board in a split vote in July, but his proposed contract was rejected by the board in August and again in September. The board voted 3-1 to fire Perales Sept. 30, with Lopez, Orona and Gonzalez voting in favor of the motion, and Gallegos voting against.
Following that item, the board voted 3-1 to hire the Law Firm of Wood, Boykin and Associates and to approve a contract with the firm. Wood, Boykin and Associates is the law firm of John Bell, who has served as the district's legal counsel for more than 15 years.