Benefits and security top school budget
By Lorenzo Salinas
A healthy school budget has helped pave the way for employee benefits and school safety changes.
The Port Arthur Independent School District board of trustees met for a budget retreat Thursday at the Administration Building on Ninth Avenue. Several items were discussed such as security and education tools.
Superintendent Mark Porterie said the 2018-19 budget would be a bit more than last year’s, chiefly due to expanded benefits for employees.
“The board of trustees and I feel that our employees work hard and we want to compensate them appropriately,” he said.
Porterie compared education to a large business, something that it’s become over the years.
“And within a business, you have to take care of your employees,” he said. “There’s compensation packages in business that people look at when they want to enter that business. It’s the same with schools.”
Porterie listed perks like insurance, medical and retirement as things people look at before taking a job — and that’s something PAISD has tried to keep up with.
“We’re always trying to be competitive, and it’s always tough to compete with Houston schools,” he said. “But I think we do a good job of competing with other schools within this region.
“We compensate our employees for the work they do and we want them to understand they have a future here.”
Porterie termed the opportunity to advance within the district as upward mobility and said that monetary compensation comes with advancement within the schools.
PAISD routinely operates with a budget over $100 million per school year, which is the total that includes funds like state and local.
Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Phyllis Geans said the new budget would have adjustments made due to impacts of 2017’s Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, most of them resulting from donations and grants.
Geans described these additional dollars as wonderful because they would help the district supplement the budget and “help us get back to business as normal.”
The 2018-19 school year will be the first year the chapter 313 agreement with Motiva will roll off the books. As a Chapter 41 district, PAISD will have to pay recapture to the state.
Chapter 41 is a part of the Texas Education Code that requires certain property wealthy school districts to share their tax revenues with other, less wealthy districts.
The provision is sometimes called the “share the wealth” or “Robin Hood” plan due to the apparent (and mandatory) donation from wealthy to non-wealthy.
The funds the state collects from these districts are recapture and the exact funds for this upcoming school year had yet to be determined.
Porterie said there have been several talks with Jefferson County constables and Port Arthur Police Department intended to provide better safety overall for the district’s 15 campuses.
Initial plans call for one constable to cover a rotational schedule for all the district’s elementary schools, in addition to the usual police guard stationed at each school.
“With heightened concerns about school safety, I think we need to be proactive instead of reactive,” Melvin Getwood, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said.
A combination of constables and police officers would be stationed at various PAISD campuses. Memorial High School has at least five officers at its school, for example, including constables.
Porterie said the district is moving forward with metal detectors for its campuses, which would be in line with Gov. Greg Abbot’s School and Firearm Safety Action Plan released in May.
“We want to adhere to what’s he asking us to do,” Porterie said. “We’re already on board with several things he’s asked of us.”
The board approved the purchase of new weight equipment for the Memorial High School Fieldhouse from Promaxima MFG., Inc. for $50,318.
“We received three bids and the lowest was from Promaxima,” Porterie said.
The flooring and rubber tiles along with other renovations for the field house have already been completed.
The board approved a competitive sealed proposal for a new generator for the Memorial cooler/freezer.
“The current generator only deals with lighting,” Porterie said. “This (new) one deals with lighting and the freezer.”
The new generator could cost anywhere from $85,000 to $100,000. A grant from the Child Nutrition Department would account for $30,000 of that amount.
The new generator will use natural gas. The old generator used diesel and will still be kept for use.
The district has terminated its contract with its previous provider for crossing guards and assumed a new one with Kelly Educational Staffing.
Currently, the district employs 17 crossing guards and is looking to hire one more. Pay starts at $10.75 an hour and crossing guards could expect to receive benefits like vision, health and 401K.
Porterie said all elementary schools would have two crossing guards with the exceptions of Adams and Wheatley. Each middle school would have one guard each and Memorial and Memorial 9th Grade Academy would not have any.
The board approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Port Arthur to share expenses for district-wide crossing guards.
The board approved the purchase of security camera enhancements at Memorial Stadium from Discovery Technologies for $231,978.
“This is for a brand new system because the old system will not be able to handle the new software…” Porterie said. “Everyone was in agreement that security was No. 1.”