Education cuts becoming reality in Williamson ISD’s

Posted in Education, Hutto, Leander, Public Schools, Williamson County at 11:36 am by wcnews

The education cuts are going to be brutal.  It was announce this week that Leander ISD will cut 250 jobs, Leander district to terminate 213 first-year teachers.

Leander school officials announced Monday that they plan to terminate 213 first-year teachers as part of an effort to close a projected $29 million shortfall in the district’s $244 million 2011-12 budget.

The teachers gathered after school on their campuses and watched as Superintendent Bret Champion told them in a webcast that they were being laid off.

The district — the third-largest in Central Texas, with more than 32,000 students — did not offer incentives for employees to leave voluntarily. The district has 1,930 teachers and more than 4,000 employees.

The district actually eliminated 250 positions — 141 central office and other nonteaching positions and 109 classroom teacher jobs — to save $11.3 million.

More on the situation in Leander from the Hill Country News here and here.

The Statesman had this story on the closing of Veterans’ Hill Elementary School in Hutto, Hutto school closure hits small community hard.

A lot of teachers, students and even parents dream about the first day of school.

Veterans’ Hill Elementary School Principal Michele Bischoffberger has been having dreams about the last. “I already know what that’s going to look like,” she said. “Nobody else will be here. I’m going to be here by myself.”

Bischoffberger said the dreams are her subconscious’s way of dealing with the fact that Veterans’ Hill — her first principal assignment — will be closed June 2.

Hutto school district officials will be the first in the Austin area to shutter a campus amid the current budget crisis affecting Texas public education.

With current estimates of state cuts between $4 billion and $10 billion, officials in other districts, including Austin, may soon follow suit. District administrators are trying to close anticipated 2011-12 budget gaps by cutting jobs and increasing teacher workloads, among other things.


Parents say they are disappointed and sad.

Jake Bailey, father of a Veterans’ Hill kindergartner, said he wonders why the district didn’t save more for a rainy day.

Amanda Moreno said it has been hard not only to watch her daughter, who cried at hearing the school would close, but also the teachers, who acted like graduating seniors at a recent school dance. “It was sad, like you were seeing them say goodbye,” she said.

It’s interesting to hear a parent wonder why the Hutto ISD didn’t save more for a rainy day. The main reason is that it likely would have meant higher taxes. And how likely would anyone have been, in recent years, to allow their property taxes to be raised just to make sure that their school district had a Rainy Day Fund?  Most politicians, in situations like that start calling for giving the money back to taxpayers. And currently we see many politicians are unwilling to spend that money when it actually is raining.

The real wonder should be why so many Texans sat by and did nothing as this crisis was knowingly created in 2006?


May local election news

Posted in Cedar Park, Georgetown, Hutto, Jarrell, Leander, Liberty Hill, Local Elections, Round Rock, Taylor, Williamson County at 6:25 am by wcnews

Local elections are coming up May 8th with early voting starting on Monday. Here are the local races, via the Williamson County Elections page, (includes early voting schedule):

Liberty Hill ISD
Leander ISD
Pflugerville ISD
Round Rock ISD
City of Cedar Park
City of Georgetown District 3
City of Granger
City of Hutto
City of Jarrell
City of Leander
City of Liberty Hill
City of Taylor (citywide)
City of Taylor District 4
City of Thrall
Block House Creek MUD
Brushy Creek MUD
Fern Bluff MUD
Sonterra MUD
Wells Branch MUD
Anderson Mill Limited District
Chisholm Trail SUD
Austin Community College

Below are some recent news articles on the elections.  Any candidates or supporters of candidates have any articles to add for any of these races or information on the candidates, feel free to do so in the comments.

Get to know the candidates: 2010 Leander City Council Candidates.

Get to know your candidates: 2010 Cedar Park City Council.

RRISD School board candidates address issues at PTA forum.

Hutto Council races heat up.

Impact News has a good synopsis for Georgetown, Hutto, and Taylor.

Taylor Council candidates respond to city issues.

From the AusChron, ACC Board Elections: Meet the Candidates.


Runoff results in Leander and Hutto

Posted in Hutto, Leander, Local Elections, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 8:59 pm by wcnews

Via the HCN, Leander election ends – finally!

The Leander general and special elections finally came to an end Saturday night with only one new seat filled. John Cowman was reelected to his mayor’s seat by claiming 59.4 percent of the vote. Cowman had 821 votes while challenger Iris Davis won 558 votes. Michell Cantwell was reelected to Place 4 and David Siebold was reelected to Place 6. Andrea Navarrette won the vacated Place 1 seat that expires in 2010.

In Hutto Michael Smith (104 votes/54%) won the Place 4 runoff against Ray Gavit, (90 voters/46%).

Full results from both runoffs here.


Leander, Hutto runoffs Saturday

Posted in Hutto, Leander, Local Elections, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 8:34 am by wcnews

The Hill Country News has an article on the Leander runoff.

Early in the election cycle, incumbent John Cowman declared his endorsement of incumbents Michell Cantwell (Place 4) and David Siebold (Place 6). Cowman also endorsed former council member Andrea Navarrette for Place 1, a one-year term that opened when Vic Villarreal decided to run for mayor.

On the opposite side of Cowman’s endorsements are the group of Iris Davis (Mayor), Mark Kronkosky (Place 1), Cathy Broun (Place 4) and Josh Payne (Place 6), a quartet that has Leanderdidyouknow.com and has distributed fliers via the post office.

Cowman’s group has run ads together in local publications and received group endorsements.

Here’s the Hutto News article on the Hutto runoff.

The race is between Ray “Coach” Gavit and Michael J. Smith. Neither candidate won the majority vote needed to take a seat on the council during the May 9 general election.

Gavit, 55, is a teacher and coach at Hutto Elementary School, where he has worked for 11 years.

Smith, 22, is the owner of Beyond the Limits, an educational business for adults with mental disabilities.

Early vote turnout [.pdf] was pretty good in Leander, and a little over 100 showed up in Hutto. So in these two elections it’s likely every vote will count.  AAS has more on the runoffs.


Early Voting for Leander & Hutto runoffs starts today

Posted in Hutto, Leander, Local Elections, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 12:02 pm by wcnews

Via the HCN:

Early voting for the runoff election in Leander began this morning and will continue until June 9. Election Day is June 13. The candidates are: Mayor – Iris Davis and John Cowman; Place 1 – Mark Kronkosky and Andrea Navarrette; Place 4 – Michell Cantwell and Cathy Broun; Place 6 – Josh Payne and Dave Siebold.

Via the Hutto News:

The run-off election for Place 4 on the Hutto City Council will be held June 13.

Early voting will begin June 1 and conclude June 9.

Candidates Michael J. Smith and Ray “Coach” Gavit received the top two numbers of votes during May 9’s general election, but neither candidate was able to win the majority of votes required to claim a seat on the council.

Full information via the Williamson County Elections page:

Dates & Times for ALL LOCATIONS

Monday, June 1st through Saturday, June 6th: 8am to 6pm

No Sunday Voting

Monday, June 8th through Tuesday, June 9th: 7am to 7pm

Williamson County Inner Loop Annex, 301 SE Inner Loop, Georgetown

Pat Bryson Municipal Hall, 201 N. Brushy, Leander
Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto

Here’s a handy printable schedule [.doc].


Alternative energy battery plant to be built in Leander

Posted in District 31, Good Stuff, Leander, The Economy, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 10:35 am by wcnews

Yesterday there was some very encouraging economic news for Leander and Williamson County, via the HCN, Proposed facility in Leander to provide 4,000 jobs.

Valence Technology, Inc., a leading U.S.-based manufacturer and supplier of lithium iron magnesium phosphate energy storage solutions, announced on Wednesday it plans to open a facility in Leander that would provide 4,000 jobs. Valence has submitted a grant application to the U.S. Department of Energy under the Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative. The facility would cost nearly $600 million.

Here’s an overview of Valence Technology Inc., from their corporate borchure:

Valence Technology, Inc. is an international leader in the development of lithium iron magnesium phosphate energy storage solutions. The company has redefined lithium battery technology and performance by marketing the industry’s first safe, reliable and rechargeable lithium phosphate battery.

Founded in 1989, Valence offers a proven technology and manufacturing infrastructure that delivers ISO-certified products and processes that are protected by an extensive global patent portfolio.

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Valence has facilities in Nevada, China and Northern Ireland. Valence is traded on the NASDAQ Capital Market exchange under the ticker symbol VLNC.

This deal has been made possible because of massive tax abatements that have been agreed to by the city, county and state, as well as a likely federal grant of $225 million dollars.  The grant comes from President Obama’s stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), that was passed earlier this year. Again from the HCN:

“With significant incentives projected from the state, county and city governments, Leander, Texas, was chosen as the primary site for our advanced battery manufacturing plant,” said Valence Chief Financial officer Ross Goolsby, who’s also a Steiner Ranch resident. “Both State and City officials have demonstrated incredible support for the plan to provide up to 2,700 new, high-tech jobs in the Central Texas region by 2012 and up to 4,000 jobs by 2016. The State of Texas, Williamson County and the City of Leander are projecting and seeking approval of more than $150 million in incentives over a 10-year period.”


Valence submitted its application requesting $225 million in federal grant funds over a three-year period and plans to fund the remaining $359.4 million (61.5% of the total project costs) through state and local tax and other incentives. The annual production capacity of the proposed facility is estimated to be 660,000 battery packs or more than one million kilowatt hours (kWh) of equivalent available energy and can be online as early as August 2012. This grant application is a separate request from the Company’s March loan application under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program (ATVMIP). Funds under both programs are available to qualified companies.


Funds totalling $2 billion for grants under this initiative have been appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which aims to stimulate the economy and create new American jobs by specifically utilizing renewable energy technologies that will shift the nation to a low-carbon economy.

It’s key to recognize that this kind of investment, from the federal government to create the jobs of the future, is what Obama said all along was one of the main objectives of the economic stimulus package.  Which, by the way, Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) so eagerly voted against.

It must also be realized that the tax abatements from the city, county, and state most times don’t “pay for themselves”, they too come at a price.  That’s not to say this is a bad deal, just trying to bring some reality to the stiuation.

Here’s what the economic development director for the city of Leander had to say about the deal:

Kirk Clennan, economic development director for the city of Leander, said the city has been working with federal, state, county and Austin Chamber of Commerce officials since late February on the deal.

“This is a game changer for Central Texas and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and its regional partners,” Clennan said.

They’re has been little said, thus far, about what this means for residents of Leander. It appears we’re just supposed to assume that some benefits will “trickle-down” to the average people that live in and around Leander, not all of them will work at the plant.  It would be nice to hear how this will benefit the middle class tax paying citizen, as well as those who are struggling in this economy, and not just how good this is for the Chambers of Commerce.


Leander candidate forum CANCELLED

Posted in Leander, Local Elections, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 8:14 am by wcnews

Via the HCN.

The Leander City Council Candidate Forum is canceled for May 26 at Pat Bryson Hall. There will be no makeup date. Four candidates – Iris Davis (mayor candidate), Mark Kronkosky (place 1 candidate), Cathy Broun (place 4 candidate) and Josh Payne (place 6 candidate) – have said they will not attend. The Leander runoff election will be June 13. Early voting will be June 1-9. Read next week’s Hill Country News for more details on why it was canceled.


Leander Forum scheduled for June 13th runoff election

Posted in Leander, Local Elections, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 9:36 am by wcnews

Via the HCN, Leander candidate forum set for May 26.

It’s debate time. The candidate forum for the four runoff elections for the city council races in Leander will be on May 26 at 7 p.m. at Pat Bryson Hall. A little different than past forums, candidates will have the opportunity to respond to their opponent’s comments. And with an added twist, the moderator will have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.

Although there are four races, it ultimately comes down to an election between two separate groups. Early in the election, incumbent mayor John Cowman endorsed Andrea Navarrette (Place 1), Michell Cantwell (Place 4) and Dave Siebold (Place 6). The other group consists of Iris Davis (Mayor), Mark Kronkosky (Place 1), Cathy Broun (Place 4) and Josh Payne (Place 6). Both groups have acknowledged there is a large divide between the two groups.

Election day is June 13th, and early voting will be from June 1st – 9th.


Local Election articles

Posted in Hutto, Leander, Local Elections, Round Rock, Taylor, Uncategorized at 7:58 am by wcnews

Via TDP, Taylor, Granger and Thrall Election results.

HCN, Leander to have 4 runoffs for city council; Lynch wins Place 2 and Don Hisle Re-Elected to LISD Board; Lisa Mallory Elected to Place 1.

AAS, Architect Moman beats lawyer Morgan for Place 5 seat.

Hutto results via THN, HISD, Hutto Council Election.


Eye On Williamson Recommends…for May 9th Elections

Posted in Georgetown, Hutto, Leander, Local Elections, Round Rock, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 11:16 am by wcnews

With the start of early voting for the local elections across Williamson county, Eye On Williamson is releases our recommendations for certain local races.

Georgetown City Council District 1:
Patty Eason

Hutto Mayor
Steven “Bear” Salfelder

Hutto City Council Place 1
Tina Slayton

Hutto City Council Place 5
Jason Wirth

Leander Mayor
Vic Villarreal

Leander City Council Place 2
Carl Wake

LISD Place 2
Nacole Thompson

Round Rock City Council Place 5
John Moman

Round Rock ISD Place 2
Chad Chadwell

Round Rock ISD Place 7
Antonio Champion

Click here for expanded commentary and recommendations, in these and other races local races throughout Williamson County.

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