Waiting for the budget

10:21 PM CST on Saturday, January 15, 2005

More than 100 Lovejoy school district residents have a question, one that has remained unanswered for three years: At what level can Lovejoy ISD afford to operate the new high school once it opens? What offerings will be available, and how will the school pay for it?

In a little over a year, Lovejoy will take possession of the new high school. Officials will rapidly incur additional secondary operational expenses by hiring additional staff. The district has already hired a financial assistant superintendent.

Long before the Lovejoy school board and administration sold the community on a new high school, several citizens asked them to complete a pro forma secondary operations budget. Instead, Lovejoy used a budget from Sanger ISD in its decision to create a new secondary system. Other school district budgets can be found online, but those budgets are for existing secondary systems and should not be used to plan the creation of a new secondary system.

Lovejoy hired Moak & Casey to evaluate the viability of creating a new secondary system. In their August 2002 study, these well-respected experts in Texas public education finance stated, "A final decision [to create Lovejoy secondary schools] will require additional analysis of the budget implications." Lovejoy has yet to complete the recommended budgetary analysis. After repeated requests, Lovejoy ISD has refused to provide the most basic financial information to the community.

A petition garnering 100-plus Lovejoy resident signatures has been submitted to the Legislative Budget Board. The petition requests the board require Lovejoy ISD to provide an operations budget to the community within 30 days.

Lovejoy parents need to know if their district can provide the education promised to their children. Taxpayers who want Lovejoy to provide financial information regarding the operations of the new secondary school can sign a petition at www.lovejoyschools.com.

Lovejoy taxpayers can also contact their state representatives, Ken Paxton or Jodie Laubenberg, and request their support in requiring the school district to complete financial planning for the education of the attending children.

More than 100 people have spoken – they want to know how Lovejoy plans to finance secondary operations.

It's a reasonable question that deserves an answer.

Brenda Rizos, Lucas






Lovejoy is right on track

04:50 PM CST on Sunday, January 23, 2005

Re: "Waiting for the budget," Sunday Letters.

Lovejoy ISD residents who were concerned by Brenda Rizos' letter regarding our secondary operating budget should be happy to learn that the district does, in fact, know what it will cost to operate the new Lovejoy high school and middle school. Even better, we've been saving money for years to cover the transition and start-up costs. Lovejoy currently has $9.7 million in its "fund balance," which is comparable to a household's savings account. Of those funds, almost $3.1 million is specifically designated to pay secondary transition costs.

We know, as well as any district can, what it will cost to operate the high school, including the costs of athletics, fine arts and advanced/AP courses. And we have run the calculations to confirm that we can pay those costs.

Ms. Rizos took out of context Moak & Casey's recommendation for "additional analysis" – the data they were hoping to get involved just two areas: better demographic projections (which we have obtained) and information about what the state of Texas would do with school funding. Every district in Texas is still waiting anxiously for the answer to that last question.

All Lovejoy residents – parents and other community members – are invited to attend our board meetings or visit our official Web site to learn about our district as it grows and changes. Don't be fooled by look-alike names; the official Lovejoy site is www.lovejoyisd.net.

The district is grateful for the many parents and other community members who show their confidence in Lovejoy leadership every day. Parents tell me frequently that they want Lovejoy High School to be, not just good, but the best possible.

Lovejoy High School will be the best. We've been planning it for years, not just in the budget, but in the curriculum and the thousands of other decisions that have to be made. Lovejoy ISD is fortunate to have a wonderful staff and a devoted community. That community demands excellence, and that's exactly what Lovejoy will deliver.

Rich Hickman, President, Lovejoy ISD Board of Trustees, Fairview





We want to know Lovejoy is on the right track

09:25 PM CST on Friday, January 28, 2005

Re: "Lovejoy is right on track," Sunday Reader Response.

Rich Hickman has long claimed Lovejoy ISD knows the costs to operate the new high school and middle school. Yet an open records request for operating cost projections was filed in September. Superintendent Carol Ray's written reply Sept. 29 stated that the district "does not maintain documents responsive to your request."

Previous appeals for this pro-forma budget have yielded only consultants' reports and budgets from other districts.

Of course, we want the best school for our children. It will also ensure the desirability of our community and maintain our property values. Unsubstantiated claims that costs are accounted for are merely words. A detailed analysis of projected operating costs would responsibly alleviate residents' concerns. I frequently attend meetings and visit their Web site. This data is not available either place.

Requesting crucial financial information the district claims it has created is not an act of nonsupport. It is our duty and right to verify taxpayer money is properly allocated and our academic and extra-curricular expectations will be met.

Continued refusal to provide this information suggests either the projected budget does not exist, or the numbers belie what has been promised.

The district's financial homework is past due. We need to grade whether they are truly "right on track." We deserve more than glib assurances the district is not headed for derailment.

Tonda Frazier, Lucas





Do you have faith in Lovejoy schools?


07:01 PM CST on Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Yes – they have a plan
As a Lovejoy ISD parent and taxpayer, I feel we get more than enough financial data from the district. I started attending school board meetings before my children were students at Lovejoy so I could understand and come to know how the district was being operated. Every month at the school board meeting, an agenda packet is available to visitors that includes a complete financial statement with balances in every account, income and expenses by category, and even quarterly investment statements.

Budgets are published annually, as they're developed, and handed out to the public at the meetings. I've seen the secondary estimates, which are based on the facilities (bond) costs and per-student operating expenses, and I feel comfortable that Lovejoy will be able to operate the kind of high school we parents are expecting and anticipating. Assistant Superintendent Rachea Adams, in charge of business services, is always very precise in her information and is always willing to answer any questions I may have regarding the budget and future projects – no matter how mundane.

I have faith and trust in our school board, and I'm grateful that they've been able to save money for the transition process. Keep in mind that our tax rate is still lower than Allen's and McKinney's. We have a well-managed district (the only exemplary district in Collin County) that is open with parents and community members.

Be proud, offer your help and support instead of complaining!

Claudia Mair, Fairview

No – response falls short
Lovejoy school board member Rich Hickman's response to the recent call for a public budget for Lovejoy High School gives little reassurance to the Lovejoy taxpayers other than "We've been saving for years to cover the transition and start-up costs" and boasting $9.7 million in the "fund balance" to back that assumption. Mr. Hickman says, "We have run the calculations to confirm that we can pay these costs."

I signed the petition requesting a written budget, though, because I feel that all of the taxpayers deserve proof in writing where the funds are going and what the long-term projections are for the new secondary system.

It would be icing on the cake if, once it was written in a formal manner, it was posted on the official LISD Web site for all to see, eliminating the hassle of requesting copies at taxpayer expense.

Our property taxes have escalated to the point where we are considering leaving our home of over 20 years because our property taxes have become a burden that looms as a threat the upkeep of our home. I would appreciate the courtesy of a written budget from my highest taxing entity, my local public school district. Mr. Hickman expects blind confidence in Lovejoy leadership based on a wonderful staff that demands excellence and is grateful for community support.

What I expect is respect for the hard-earned dollars that have made it possible for such a large "fund balance" to exist in the first place.

Sandra Ringo, Lucas