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Van Horn Advocate |
From Staff and Wire Reports
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PECOS, August 8, 1997 - Texans have one last chance to decide if
homeowners will get a break on school property taxes or if they want
state legislators to apply a $1 billion budget surplus in another
manner. That chance comes at the voting polls tomorrow.
On the ballot is a single question, asking voters whether homestead
property tax exemptions should be increased from a minimum of $5,000 to
a minimum of $15,000.
The higher exemption will cost school districts about $1 billion every
two years - money lawmakers have pledged to replace, according to some
While the election is considered important, a low voter turnout is
expected. To try to overcome the expected low turnout Secretary of State
Tony Garza, the state's chief elections official, launched a
get-out-the-vote tour. However, he has not set an estimate on how many
of the state's 10.6 million registered voters will cast a ballot in the
Early voting for the school tax election ended Tuesday with 343 ballots
cast in Reeves County.
Ann McGeehan, Garza's election director, said she expects between 10
percent and 15 percent.
"Constitutional elections are uphill battles in terms of getting people
out to vote," Garza said, adding that when there aren't candidates on
the ballot, fewer people bring attention to the election.
The tax exemption question comes after lawmakers failed to approve an
attempt to lower and cap local school property taxes. The House and
Senate approved separate plans to cut the locally set tax rates, but
could not agree on a final version of the idea.
Instead, they approved a plan to increase the amount of a home's value
not subject to taxation for schools. Also included is dedicating lottery
revenues to education and a provision allowing Texans' 65 and older to
transfer a proportionate amount of their homestead tax freezes from one
home to another if they move.
The lottery-to-education provision goes into effect Sept. 1 regardless
of the election. The tax freeze portability is contingent on the
Dick Lavine, an analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities,
said it's hard for Texans to turn down a tax cut because of future
consequences. But he said voters should think about what they are
"It puts us at least $1 billion in the hole in every future (state)
budget," Lavine said of the proposal.
As property tax rates continue to go up, school districts will lose more
money because of the tax exemption. That means the exemptions will cost
more than $1 billion in the future.
The $1 billion being used to pay for the tax break in the next two-year
budget, beginning Sept. 1, came from state funds reserved for such
spending. Lavine said there is no guarantee that money will be available
in the future.
"It's putting a little extra pressure on the budget," he said.
Lavine added that while the money used to pay for the tax breaks will
come from all taxpayers, only homeowners will get the benefit.
"The good news is that homeowners are going to get a tax break and it is
a progressive tax break because its $140 no matter what the value of
your home is," he said. "For some people, $140 pays for two weeks' of
The proposed constitutional amendment election was called by the state
legislature at the urging of Gov. George Bush in an attempt to reduce
school taxes. The proposal increases the standard homestead property tax
exemptions for residential school property. The exemptions would be
increased by $10,000.
However, some school officials have said the state's formula for
determining minimum teacher salaries will force them to increase local
property tax rates if the proposal passes.
Bush does not agree with that argument against the proposal, according
to Associated Press (AP) reports.
According to AP reports, minimum teacher pay reflects the amount of
money the state provides local districts. Because the state is replacing
the $1 billion districts will be shorted from the tax reduction if the
property tax amendment passes, minimum teacher salaries will have to be
increased. As a result, local school property tax rates could increase.
Many Texans would prefer using $1 billion to pay for additional
education, law enforcement or other state services instead of cutting
property taxes, according to Land Commissioner Garry Mauro.
The proposed constitutional amendment would increase the minimum
homestead exemption from $5,000 to $15,000, a roughly $140 annual
savings for most homeowners. It also would allow senior citizens to
transfer from home to home a proportionate amount of property tax
Lawmakers put $1 billion into the two-year state budget that begins
Sept. 1 to pay for the higher tax exemption. The break would not go to
renters or business property owners.
The tax cut is only for half the families in Texas and they only will
receive a break of $12 a month.
"Why didn't we use the $1 billion to solve some problem we have," Mauro
Karen Hughes, Gov. George W. Bush's spokeswoman, said Texans with whom
the governor has visited appreciate the tax cut. Today Bush is
completing a five-day swing across the state urging Texans to vote
"I'm not surprised that those that want bigger government would advocate
spending the money on new government programs," Mrs. Hughes said.
"Governor Bush believes the people who should benefit from a leaner,
more efficient government are the people who pay the bills."
Bush has acknowledged the tax break - roughly equal to a homeowner's
school property tax rate multiplied by 100 - is not the final answer to
the problem of rising school property taxes. He says, however, that it
is a first step.
The proposal came after Bush and lawmakers failed to approve a larger
effort meant to cut and cap local school property tax rates. A separate
measure to be voted on in November will put a cap on property assessment
increases and will allow Texans to defer property tax payments if their
home values grow by more than 5 percent a year. That measure, too, was a fall-back position from a larger effort.
By CARA ALLIGOOD
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PECOS, August 8, 1997 - After meeting in executive session during
yesterday evening's special meeting, the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board
announced that Gail Norris will be the new principal at Pecos
Elementary, the third-grade campus in Pecos.
The Pecos Elementary principal position became open this summer after
Principal Juanita Davila was moved from Pecos Elementary to Crockett
Middle School, where she replaced Principal Danny Rodriguez. Rodriguez
was appointed principal at Pecos High School this summer, replacing
Alice Duerksen, who resigned to take a teaching position in her home
town, Fort Stockton.
Norris has been in Pecos for one year as a first-grade teacher at Austin
Elementary. She has 28 years experience as an educator.
Norris received her Bachelor's degree from Midwestern University,
Wichita Falls, in 1969 and earned her Masters degree in 1973 from East
Texas State University in Commerce. She has Reading Specialist
certification from East Texas State University and Mid-Management
certification from Sul Ross State University in Alpine. She also has
paramedic training, but is no longer certified in that area.
Norris has taught first through eighth grade, reading, math,
self-contained and gifted/talented classes.
Dr. Don Killough, Director of Superintendent Searches for the Texas
Association of School Boards and Bryan LaBeff form the Region 18 Service
Center both gave presentations on what services they would offer if
hired to conduct the district's search for a new superintendent.
The search became necessary after former PBT Superintendent, Mario
Sotelo, left the district this summer to take the position as
superintendent for the Edinburg school district. Interim Superintendent
Wayne Mitchell is performing the superintendent's duties while the
search for a permanent superintendent takes place.
The search for a superintendent was conducted by Region 18 the last time
the district needed to fill the position, and they are going to do it
The decision was not entirely unanimous, with Trustee Steve Armstrong
opposed and all other board members in approval.
Part of the decision was based on finances. Dr. Killough would have
charged a consultant's fee of $6,500, not including expenses for travel,
printing or postage. LaBeff told the school board that he could do the
job in about the same three month time frame that Dr. Killough quoted
them, but for a $3,000 fee, plus expenses for telephone calls to check
references, travel and postage, which he estimated would cost the board
The main differences between the proposals, other than fees, is that
Region 18 does not recruit candidates for the position or charge to
print brochures to send to potential applicants.
The P-B-T ISD Code of Conduct was unanimously approved by the board for
both the elementary and secondary levels. Spanish translations of the
document will be made available upon request.
A couple of minor changes will be made to the wording of the elementary
and secondary student handbooks. The handbooks were approved with those
changes to be made.
The school district is still involved in budget workshops. School board
members are in the process of discussing campus budgets, not department
The school board will ask each campus administrator to submit a balanced
budget based on last year's figures.
"It is a realistic request to ask, in a future meeting, to ask
administrators to come back with a balanced budget," said Trustee Linda
Salary schedules for next year were also discussed, and the discussion
focused on teacher pay and the effect that low local tax rates have on
the amount of reimbursement that the state receives from the state.
Currently, Pecos property taxes are lower than in the surrounding area,
but so are state reimbursements and teachers' salaries. Several people
voiced the concern that this is seriously affecting the district's
ability to attract and retain talented teachers, which they feel
detracts from the schools' ability to offer local children the best education possible.
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PECOS, August 8, 1997 - The modification of a revolving loan fund
contract for a recreation center will be discussed at Monday morning's
regular Reeves County Commissioner's Court meeting.
In conjunction, the group will go into executive session to discuss
recreation center property acquisition.
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. on the third floor courtroom, Reeves
Commissioners will also discuss the modification of the Reeves County
Detention Center CEO contract and will approve the deputation and oath
on sheriff's office deputy, Ernest Lascano.
The group will also approve bond on Olivia D. Lara and take action on
bids for signs and posts.
Commissioners will also:
- Discuss/take action on request by El Paso Field Services Co. to cross
the right of way of Reeves County Road #101 with buried welded steel
- Listen to a presentation on economic development.
- Discuss/take action on reports from various departments.
- Discuss/take action on budgent amendments and line-item transfers.
- Discuss/take action on personnel and salary changes (JP#1, RCDC,
Sheriff's Office, JDC, County Judge).
- Discuss/take action on minutes from previous minutes.
- Approve semi-monthly bills.
- Spread on minutes: Dianne O. Florez - Xerox order agreement. Order
setting salaries by the District Judge, County Auditor and Assistant auditors.
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AMARILLO, Texas (AP) August 8, 1997 - A man who killed his estranged
common-law wife in front of the Clarendon grocery store where she worked
was gunned down minutes later by a sheriff's deputy, authorities said.
Donley County Sheriff Jimmy Thompson said Lloyd Duane "Sonny" Anderson,
59, fired five or six shots from his .357-caliber handgun, striking
Debbie Harper once in the back.
Deputies chased Anderson to nearby Howardwick, where the man's car
apparently stalled out. Anderson was killed in a confrontation with
deputies in a liquor store parking lot, Thompson said.
Both Anderson and Ms. Harper, 43, were pronounced dead at an Amarillo
hospital. She had worked in the meat department at the B&R Thriftway
store, which carried on business after the slaying.
Willis Clark, owner of an area restaurant Ms. Harper frequented, said he
wasn't surprised the couple's volatile relationship ended in death.
"She told us (Wednesday) at lunch that he asked to come back, and she
said, 'Just leave me alone,' " Clark said. "She was a real nice lady,
but I didn't have any use for (Anderson)." Clarendon is about 60 miles east of Amarillo.
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VICTORIA, Texas (AP) August 8, 1997 - A state prison inmate who failed
to obey a judge's order to stay away from gangs while in prison has had
10 years added to his 10-year sentence.
When Robert Louis Cantu, 19, of Victoria, was sentenced in February,
State District Judge Robert Cheshire ordered him not to participate in
gang activity or violate any disciplinary rules while in the
Cantu was sent to prison for aggravated assault and for threatening to
kill a woman who could have testified against him in court.
District Attorney George Filley III said Cantu violated the judge's
order by participating in gang-related fights last month at the Garza
Unit East in Beeville. Cantu also was caught with a weapon and in
possession of unauthorized property, the prosecutor said.
Cantu was returned to Victoria, where Cheshire added 10 years to his
sentence. He must serve at least five years before he is eligible for
"'We are asking judges to reach out and control (offenders') behavior in
prison ... so that if they participate in gang activity, then we'll
bring them back to Victoria County and impose additional time," Filley
told The Victoria Advocate.
Filley said Cantu is the first offender to receive additional prison
time under the new initiative.
David Nunnlee, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
described the initiative as "certainly a step in the right direction."
"Any time you can prevent a gang member from engaging in gang behavior,
you can make it a safer environment," Nunnlee said. "There are a lot of
gang members out there. If you can turn one of them around, it's worth
There are an estimated 4,000 gang members in the prison system, Nunnlee
"One less would certainly be welcomed," he said. "It is not going to
solve the problem, but it's a start," Nunnlee added. "The county should be applauded for this."
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WATONGA, Okla. (AP) August 8, 1997 - Alissa Johnson is where thousands
of youngsters would love to be - the All American Soap Box Derby.
The 15-year-old gets a chance at the big prize in soapbox racing
Saturday in Akron, Ohio. She is the only Oklahoman to make the
nationals, earning that right by winning the Texas Midwest Soap Box
Derby in Sweetwater, Texas, last month.
"You can only be in one qualifier race per year," Miss Johnson said. "So
I had to win first place in Sweetwater to be able to go to Akron at all.
I had to beat out eight other cars."
In Akron, she will compete against 282 other races from throughout the
United States, Canada, Germany and Costa Rica.
Soapbox racing reached the height of popularity in the mid-1960s, but is
regaining popularity. This year's group is a record number.
Miss Johnson will compete in the super stock car division with her car "Alissa's Answer." The other divisions are stock and masters.
San Angelo Standard Times
Abilene Reporter News
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dallas Morning News
Texas Press Association
York (Pa.) Daily Record, Sister Paper to Pecos Enterprise
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1997 by Pecos Enterprise
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