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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, April 16, 2004

Gallego unimpressed by plan from Perry on school funding

Staff Writer

State Rep. Pete Gallego is among those not impressed with Gov. Rick Perry’s school finance reform plan, Gallego said during a visit to Pecos on Thursday.

Gallego was on hand for the grand opening of the addition at the Reeves County Hospital, and then spoke to local teachers at the Technology Center following the hospital ceremony.

“I want to meet with them, talk about the problems and get their input,” said Gallego. Perry announced his school funding plan last week, and on Monday called a special session of the Texas Legislature to vote on it. If adopted, Perry's plan would eliminate the current share-the-wealth plan known as Robin Hood, which takes money from wealthy school districts and redistributes it to poor ones.

The plan would reduce taxes through a "constitutionally linked roll," reducing the residential property tax cap by 25 cents to $1.25. The business property tax would become statewide and be reduced to $1.40. Both business and residential property taxes, which are levied by school districts, are capped at $1.50 under the current plan.

Under the proposed plan, Perry said residential property taxes would go directly to schools, while business taxes would be collected by the states.

"The funds that property wealthy districts provide to other schools under the Robin Hood formula today would instead be provided directly by the state, which will take on the burden of addressing funding gaps," Perry said.

Perry's proposal calls for the eventual lowering of the property tax cap on both business and residents to 75 cents, buying down the property tax rate with future state budget surpluses.

Property tax revenue that schools now depend on would be replaced by revenue from "voluntary, and often unhealthy, behavior and through tax fairness," Perry said.

“One of the interesting things about school finance is that it’s a big issue and takes a lot of people to solve the problems,” he said.

Gallego said that the reason taxes were so high, is that 36 percent of property taxes is put in by the state, while the people are putting in the other 64 percent. “That’s why they are so high, because the people are putting in the biggest percentage,” he said. “They’ve got to do a better job at state level,” he said.

Other Perry proposals would close loopholes in the state's business franchise tax and a suspected automobile tax loophole, in which auto buyers pay a lower tax by reporting a lower sale price

Gallego said that he wasn’t satisfied with Perry’s proposal, something other state legislators have also said in the week since his plan was first released.

“I’m not impressed with what I have seen,” said Gallego. “The reality is, it’s Enron accounting, it pushes the debt back for two years and two years from now the problem is back.”

Perry's plan also proposes a $1 per pack increase in the state's cigarette tax, up from its current 41 cents per pack; a $5 state tax on admissions to adult entertainment; and the legalization and taxation of video lottery terminals at racetracks.

Gallego also was not happy with the ‘sin tax’ proposals by the governor.

“I’m not sure finance depends on how many people go to topless clubs,” he said.

Before speaking with local teachers, Gallego spoke to those in attendance at the grand opening ceremony for the hospital’s new addition, which will eventually include a first-ever kidney dialysis center for the facility.

“I can’t tell you how refreshing it is for cities of this size to be on the cutting edge,” said Gallego. “On the part of the State of Texas, ‘felicidades,’” he said.

Gallego said that he realized the hard work and dedication it took to accomplish a project this size and congratulated the hospital board and everyone who worked towards this goal.

“You should be very proud of yourselves,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

Grand opening held for RCH expansion project

Staff Writer

Reeves County Hospital celebrated the grand opening of its new wing yesterday with an estimated crowd of 200, including state representative Pete Gallego.

The project is the first major addition to the facility since it opened in 1978. Hospital Board President Linda Gholson added that the expansion would never have been possible if it weren’t for the foresight of the voters to create a separate hospital district in 1989. “The project began when we were looking at the emergency room. The 25 year old facilities badly needed to be renovated,” Gholson said. “We really needed the space for equipment.”

“The need for the dialysis center had been seen for a while,” she said. “Leo Hung especially brought that up long before I came on the board. Studies were conducted to determine if there was a need for such a facility, and the results showed that Pecos alone could support it, not to mention the rest of Reeves County.”

Gholson added that she did not expect any problems with the upcoming transition of supplies and personnel to the new wing in order to make room for the renovation of the preexisting facility, due to the fact that the transition would be in phases.

“We will be moving into the new emergency room on Monday at 12:01 a.m., with the rest of the expansion being totally moved into within one week. “ she said. The only exception is the dialysis unit, which Gholson said, “must wait until the nephrologist comes this summer and the equipment is in place, which follows the original opening date of sometime in July,”

“We are very excited, and very fortunate to have a nephrologist that will be solely for RCH,” she added.

RCH Director of Public Relations Venetta Seals added that the transition was well planned for and expected to go very smoothly.

“The specialty clinics will be moved on Tuesday, with physical therapy following soon, and the rural health clinic will move over the weekend due to the large numbers of files that they have. Surgery and delivery will not be moving into the new wing, but they will be the first areas renovated,” Seals said.

Gholson said that the expansion would prove to be invaluable to the town of Pecos, by eliminating the out-of-town trips for healthcare that Reeves County citizens make on a regular basis.

RCH Administrator Robert Vernor’s told those gathered for Thursday’s grand opening that over $8 million Reeves County health care dollars were spent outside of the county annually, and that this expansion would make great strides to keep much of that money within the county.

“We are very excited about what these expanded services and the new dialysis center mean to our community,” said Seals. “Our motto is, ‘Providing Modern Healthcare in Frontier Texas,’ and we are certainly making great strides to provide the most modern and the most needed services that are within our power and financially possible to provide.”

Jobs, jobless rate for county up slightly

Staff Writer

An increase in the local labor force offset a rise in jobs in March, and caused Reeves County’s unemployment rate to increase by one-tenth of a percent, according to figures released Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Unemployment rose from 8.3 percent in February to 8.4 percent last month, as the workforce increased by 67 people, to 5,473 overall, while the number of jobs was up by 29, to 5,015 in March.

The labor force in the county is still down sharply from recent years, due in part to the 2002 closing of the Anchor Foods plant, which led to the loss of 700 jobs. The drop in the number of jobs was reflected during the summer of 2002, when the county’s jobless rate surpassed 22 percent, while the unemployment rate decline after that was due to the number of displaced workers who moved out of Reeves County.

The county’s March jobless rate is down from 9.7 percent in January, when post-holiday layoffs normally cause unemployment rates to rise. The county had 5,500 workers at the start of 2004 and 4,966 people with jobs.

Numbers for the Town of Pecos City are similar, though as is normally the case, the city’s jobless rate is about one percent higher than the county rate.

Pecos had a 9.6 percent unemployment rate last month, up from 9.5 percent in February by down from 11.1 percent in January. The local labor force had 4,279 workers last month, 4,310 in January and 4,250 in February, while the number of workers employed in March stood at 3,869, compared with 3,832 in January and 3,847 in February.

Overall in the Permian Basin, unemployment was largely unchanged. Midland County’s 4 percent rate was unchanged from February; Ector County’s rate fell from 6.4 to 6.1 percent; Andrews County saw its rate fall from 4.8 to 4.4 percent; Brewster County’s rate fell from 3.0 to 2.6 percent; Howard County remained stable at 4.3 percent; Pecos County dropped from 5.3 to 5.2 percent; Ward County dropped from 6.8 to 6.5 percent; and Winkler County dropped from 8.1 to 6.1 percent.

Loving County’s rate held at 9.6 percent, as the state’s least-populated county had 42 of their 47 workers employed, while Presidio County still had the state’s highest jobless rate, but it fell from 19.2 to 18.8 percent.

Board seeking superintendent input by public

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board will meet in a special meeting on Monday to discuss plans for selection of a new superintendent, after which two meetings will be held with community members on the selection process.

The board will meet at 6 p.m., Monday in the P-B-T technology center to talk with Texas Association of School Board officials, who are serving as consultants in seeking a replacement for Don Love, who announced his retirement as superintendent in March. That meeting will be followed by a second special meeting, at 7:30 p.m., on Monday, to receive public comments on developing a profile of the ideal superintendent for the PBT-ISD.

The board has requested that school personnel and the public be involved in developing a profile of the person the board should seek to become the new superintendent.

A second meeting open to the public has been scheduled for Tuesday morning at 11 a..m., also at the Technology Center, 1301 S. Eddy.

The Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD School Board President Billie Sadler encourages all members of the community to attend and give the consultant their thoughts and insights. Even though meetings are designated for specific groups, each meeting is open to any interested person who wishes to attend.

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