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PAISD keeping eye on session, stress 313 agreement benefits

Administrators with the Port Arthur Independent School District are keeping an eye on the 87th Legislative Session and a number of bills that could impact education and funding.

The Chapter 313 program, which addresses value limitation and tax credits, remains important to the development of major industrial projects in the area, Superintendent Mark Porterie said.

If House Bill 1556 as filed becomes law, it would eliminate the major features of the current program that encouraged the school board and others to accept and consider applications.

“It is unlikely others in our area would ever consider applications under the proposed abatement program,” he said.

The program is a way to allow the school district to offer an incentive of sorts to court industry. Municipalities have this power already.

PAISD currently has Chapter 313 agreements with a number of industrial entities including Motiva, The Premcor Refining Group, TE Products Pipeline and others.

Porterie explained during a recent school board meeting that the 313 agreements have been positive for the district, but HB 1556 would shift the benefit of the applicant and remove the district from approving the agreement.

In addition, the Texas Education Agency announced funding would be available to schools seeing enrollment and attendance drops due to COVID-19, as long as they maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance.

This, Porterie explained, is a positive.

“We appreciate our governor providing a ‘Hold Harmless’ for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year,” he said. “Schools will now receive the ‘Hold Harmless’ funding as long as they meet the criteria.”

PAISD, he said, does meet the criteria.

Other bills worth watching include HB 1468 relating to curriculum and eligibility requirements for the provision of local remote learning to qualify for state funding and calculation of average daily attendance, and HB 5 and SB 5 broadband bills.

Other action

Also during the meeting Porterie gave an update on various projects.

  • As of March 12 the district is the owner of the former Christus building across from the library. The building will house PAISD support services, transportation, maintenance technology and more.
  • The district is preparing for the demolition of the former Stephen F. Austin campus. Abatement of textured plaster and duct pipe insulation and some flooring is underway and they are coordinating that utilities will be kept on in order to keep the print shop open. Architects are looking at the building for a Newcomer’s Center.
  • Projects at Lincoln Middle School track are ongoing and work at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School stadium and auditorium was approved.