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Belton ISD Trustees discuss next move in COVID-19 response, adopts tax rate, hires new assistant principal

Superintendent Matt Smith told the Board that the district plans to move into Scenario 3 beginning Oct. 5 based on the current health conditions in Bell County.
Credit: White, Crystal

BELTON, Texas — Belton Independent School District Board of Trustees discussed the next steps in the district’s COVID-19 response plan Monday.

Belton ISD started school on Sept. 8 in 'Scenario 4' of its plan, which means all students learn from home on Wednesdays to allow for additional teacher planning. Under Scenario 4, the high schools operate on a hybrid schedule where students attend in-person classes two days a week and learn from home three days a week, according to Belton ISD. 

Superintendent Matt Smith told the Board that the district plans to move into Scenario 3 beginning Oct. 5 based on the current health conditions in Bell County, according to Belton ISD.

In Scenario 3, in-person learners will attend class Monday-Friday with a one-hour early dismissal on most Wednesdays. Masks will still be required for all students and staff. Other prevention and mitigation strategies will be continued.

Block schedules will also continue for secondary students in Scenario 3. While all students are back on campus five days a week, the A/B days lessen the number of transitions throughout the day, according to Belton ISD. 

“My No. 1 goal is to keep kids safe and to have them in school,” Smith said. “Scenario 4 gave us the opportunity to do that, but it is truly the shared responsibility between students, staff and the community that has made our start to the school year successful. Everyone is doing their part, and it’s working.”

At-home learning will continue to be an option for students as the district shifts into Scenario 3. 

The uncertainties associated with the pandemic have not slowed the district’s continued growth. Smith reported that the district’s enrollment is at 12,500 as of Sept. 21. This is an increase of 320 students from the same day last year, according to Belton ISD. 

“We are still growing in Belton ISD, pandemic or not,” Smith said. “The Board deserves a lot of credit for its planning for the two campuses opened this year, Lake Belton High School and Belton Middle School. There’s no question we needed them.”

During the meeting, the Board also adopted a decrease in the district’s tax rate for the second year in a row. The approved rate of $1.3651 is a 6.8 percent decrease compared to last year’s rate of $1.4651. 

“Recognizing that our taxpayers are seeing an increase in property values, the Board’s approval of a lower tax rate provides some relief and demonstrates our continued commitment to providing the best value,” Board President Suzanne M. McDonald said. “However, it is important that our community understand that the increases they are experiencing do not mean the district is directly benefiting.”

Under the adopted tax rate, the total projected revenue based on a 98 percent collection rate is $55,019,321, a 5.3 percent increase from last year. This increase does not equate to an increase in money for the district. 

Districts get the same amount of money per student each year, so the increase in total tax revenue means that the school district receives less money from the state, according to Belton ISD. 

“When tax revenue goes up a school district’s state aid goes down, almost proportionately,” Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Land said. “The school district is not receiving additional revenue based on the tax rate.” 

Kristie Blattner was approved by the Board to serve as an assistant principal at the Leon Heights Elementary School. Blattner, who has 15 years of experience in public education, currently serves as the campus instructional coach.

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