Clear Creek ISD updates: Board members discuss Whitcomb Elementary remodel, staff compensation and benefits July 26

(Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

Clear Creek ISD’s board of trustees approved a number of measures at the July 26 regular board meeting, including the sale of land to League City, spending on graphics services, 2021-22 staff health care plans and the design development for Whitcomb Elementary’s remodel.

Some items discussed and approved July 26 had been also discussed at a board workshop earlier in the month. One of those items was the benefits and compensation plan, which was formally approved July 26 and includes a 3% salary increase for all employees.

Approximately $6.5 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds will be reclassified as expenditures to fund the increase for FY 2021-22, per district documents. The increase is expected to cost $9 million in total.

District leaders spoke at the July 12 workshop about intentional efforts to ensure staff receive competitive salaries, stipends and benefits and how this has resulted in an experienced cohort. With the package, teachers with 10, 15 and 20 years of experience are projected to earn at least $1,000 more than the market median annual salary at CCISD next fiscal year.

“In some very difficult areas there’s a high level of experience, which is appreciated,” Board Secretary Laura DuPont said July 12, observing the challenges some districts face retaining newer teachers and other step-salary employees.

The tax rate was also briefly discussed earlier in July, and district leaders approved a public hearing to discuss the FY 2021-22 budget and tax rate on July 26. The budget public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23 at 6 p.m.

The proposed tax rate, per board meeting documents, is $0.92 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations and $0.31 per $100 valuation for interest and sinking. This $1.23 per $100 valuation combined tax rate is several cents lower than the current rate of $1.2659, district officials said July 12. The rate cannot be higher than this published figure, but could be lower, officials said July 26.

Whitcomb improvements to cost $28.3 million

The 2017 bond package includes $28.3 million in funding for an addition, renovations, improvements and priority repairs to Whitcomb Elementary School, initially built in 1967. The campus is located east of I-45 S. and south of El Dorado Boulevard on Reseda Drive.

Design development, approved at the board meeting, is based upon an assessment of site conditions, programming requirements, phasing considerations, detailed scopes of work, and development of the relationships between all interior and exterior spaces, per board documents.

Joiner Architects worked with Holly Hughes, assistant superintendent of elementary education, and her team among others to get the necessary details for drafting a proper construction phasing plan, district officials and architects said. The design and plans also must take into account new experiences had by the community during the pandemic, officials added.

Notable features in the approved designs include a makerspace—a collaborative workspace that could include a variety of equipment from 3D printers to sewing machines—and an outdoor area for learning and dining. The school’s satellite building will be repurposed for art, music and science, district leaders said.

The first of the three phases of construction begins in May 2022, with construction set to complete by August 2023. The board will approve a proposal for the construction in April 2022.

Sale of land to League City

The district will receive about $357,000 from the sale of 4.2 acres of property and conveyance to the city of League City. These funds will be deposited into the 2013 bond program, since 2013 bond funds were used to purchase the land, and the board will be able to vote on how they are used, district officials said July 26.

The city offered to purchase the land, including approximately two acres that contain the new detention pond for Parr Elementary. The purpose of this land purchase is to provide regional detention for the surrounding community, per board documents.

League City offered $0.085 per square foot for the 1.95-acre tract that includes the recently constructed detention pond, and offered $2.83 per square foot for an adjacent 2.25-acre tract to the north. They also offered $1.415 per square foot for access easement on an adjacent tract to the west of the detention pond and outdoor play area, per board documents.

Since the city will own and deepen the existing detention pond, they will take over its maintenance, eliminating CCISD’s long-term maintenance costs.

Health care plans

The board voted to approve an increase in the district’s health insurance premium contribution for employees in FY 2021-22. This was necessary based on rate increases in plans due to COVID-19 among other things, district leaders said.

The rate increases will result in $1.7 million in additional premiums to be paid for by either employees or the district. Employees on employee-only plans will pay an additional $17-$18 a month on two of the commonly used plans in 2021-22, per board documents. On one of the plans set up for employees and kids, the increase is $43 a month.

CCISD is covering an additional $14 a month for each of its employees; this amounts to a total $324 per month for all employees on an employee-only plan, $384 per month for an employee and spouse plan, $359 a month for an employee and children plan, and $409 a month for family coverage.

Murals, graphics services

Trustees and district leaders discussed awarding a contract worth $400,000 for murals and graphics related services. About $50,000 in funds not attached to a bond could be spent on the murals, but this money will not be spent if the funds are not present, said Alice Benzaia, CCISD director of business services and financial planning.

The purchasing of the services could have been phrased in a more reader-friendly manner, trustee Scott Bowen said during the meeting. Bowen felt the agenda item was written to make it look like all $400,000 is coming from taxpayers, which he said would be “out of control.”

“This was a very controversial purchase item to begin with,” he said, asking how much of the contract will be covered by volunteer organizations and how much will be coming from the school’s general fund. “I wish there were a more clear way we could communicate through these agenda items.”

The estimated cost for the project is based on previous expenditures with similar projects, district leaders said. A majority of the funds will be likely raised by volunteer organizations, although officials do not have a picture of what fundraising will look like yet. Trustee Laura DuPont noted many variables affect booster clubs and other fundraisers, making this difficult to assess on the administrative end.

“I know that Mr. Bowen wants to keep up with the budget and the spending,” Board President Jay Cunningham said during discussion, requesting an update throughout the course of year with a school-by-school breakdown of mural expenditures. “I think that would probably satisfy the board.”
By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.



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