By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen City Council was split Tuesday over who is responsible for truant students.
The council debated whether to include in the citys youth curfew ordinance some of the same regulations in the states truancy law.
I think the (truancy) systems broke, Councilman Dick Young said. But I dont know how to fix it, and its not my job to fix it.
Deputy City Attorney Traci Briggs said that truancy laws require that students be in school during school hours. The citys curfew ordinance is designed to keep kids under age 17 off the street from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from midnight to 6 a.m. Saturday, Sunday and during the summer.
Councilman Ernest Wilkerson, who requested a review of the issue, asked for the citys curfew to be extended during the school year to include school hours.
Briggs said the change would basically create a second offense. Instead of sending the case to the Justice of the Peace, whose office handles truancy cases, the offense would be sent to the municipal court.
Councilman Fred Latham said the city police department already has its hands full. The extra effort might best be made by the school districts department.
I think we have much more duties and responsibilities to take care of in our city other than that program, he said.
Young said he had a problem taking over the schools and parents function in regulating students. Especially for homeschoooled students, changing the rules would take away parents rights to control their children.
If they get their work done, school times over, he said. I just dont know if we need to be baby sitters for the moms, dads and school system.
Wilkerson said students know its illegal now but wants to see stronger enforcement.
Even if youre homeschooled, you need to be at home, Wilkerson said. ... not at the mall or on a street corner.
Briggs said other cities have added a homeschool policy to their ordinances, but it usually amounts to requiring students to get a note from their homeschool instructor stating they are done with the days activities.
Though no consensus was reached, council members asked Police Chief Dennis Baldwin to relay the message to the KISD that the truancy problem was a priority.
Budget discussions also continued as the council received the effective and rollback tax rates from the Bell County Tax Appraisal District.
Finance Director Rana Lacer reported that the effective tax rate, at which the city would make the same revenue as the previous year, is 65.17 cents per $100 valuation. The rollback rate, which is the rate at which residents may petition for a special election to recall the tax rate, is 73.96 cents.
The current tax rate is 69.5 cents.
Using the preliminary tax roll and the budgets proposed tax rate of 69 cents, ad valorem tax revenues for the city were estimated at nearly $19.4 million. The certified tax roll would bump that up to about $19.9 million in revenue for the city, a difference of about $500,000.
The council is still awaiting a definite answer on whether they have to notify residents on what they intend to do with that increase in revenue.
According to the city charter, public notice has to be made only if the budgets net expenditures increase; if another program is added without an equal sum of money to compensate for the expense.
It is uncertain whether the council can add programs because of the increased tax revenue without having to notify the public, but legal representatives at the workshop seemed to indicate that was possible.
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org