The Lufkin ISD Board of Trustees met for a special called meeting Thursday night to approve the 2021-2022 budget and proposed tax rate. The board also discussed and approved incentives for employees relating to Covid-19.

CFO Charlotte Bynum presented the budget during a public hearing and announced that the tax rate would be lowered 5.3% or 7 cents to $1.2533 per $100 of valuation. The budget included a 2% salary increase for all employees.

After the approval of the budget and tax rate, Superintendent Lynn Torres recommended re-installing Covid-leave days for employees who either have a positive diagnosis of Covid or have someone in their household with Covid.

“The federal government took away the ability to offer staff members 10 days of Covid leave. It ended in January and the board voted to extend that to the end of the school year. I recommend that we extend it again and that we implement 10 days of Covid leave for staff,” said Torres.

She said that some schools opted for vaccinated employees only to receive the days, but that she feels this is a service that needs to be offered to all of the Lufkin ISD employees.

“I recommend that we adopt it now until the end of the semester and make it retroactive to the first contract days of the year for all employees. The Board can then consider whether it needs to be extended for the spring semester after we evaluate the numbers from the fall,” said Torres.

There must be a lab confirmed Covid test either by rapid test or PCR that Covid existed in the household to receive the Covid leave days.

Another incentive that Mrs. Torres proposed was a pay incentive to vaccinated employees.

“Vaccines are making the difference,” she said.

“Dr. Glass who is on our Covid task force committee said that 94% of patients in the local hospitals are unvaccinated. We firmly believe that vaccination is going to make a difference. We are considering a vaccination incentive to reward those who have been vaccinated,” said Torres.

Employees who have been vaccinated must provide documentation that they are fully vaccinated by November 1st to receive $500.

Mrs. Torres said that 168 employees indicated on a recent survey they would take advantage of getting vaccinated if the district had another vaccination clinic. The district has provided several vaccine clinics with the help of The Medicine Shoppe and Woodland Heights Medical Center.

“We feel like it’s going to make a difference on the longevity of the illness and days missed,” said Torres.

The board approved both incentive measures with President Hall Henderson thanking the administration, staff and Covid task force.

“It’s a difficult time for all involved, and we thank you for what you do,” said Henderson.

At the end of the meeting, Henderson said that the district will be following the Governor’s orders and will not mandate masks at this time.