Byers, Petrolia consolidation in the hands of the voters

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Voters will decide if Byers ISD will consolidate with Petrolia, or go dormant until the district is divided by county commissioners. (Photo by Ben Kelton)

By Matt Kelton
Pioneer Sentinel

A local consolidation agreement between Byers ISD and Petrolia ISD is now in the hands of the voters. If residents of both districts vote “yes,” Byers students would begin attending Petrolia in late August, reaping what the superintendents of both districts have referred to as the benefits of consolidation.

There are concerns.

Byers Superintendent Kim Childs is worried that misconceptions about consolidation will affect the outcome of the May 12 election in a way that will not be beneficial to the students.

“The worst thing that can happen for Byers is if this thing doesn’t pass,” said Childs.

If residents of either school district vote against the consolidation of Byers ISD with Petrolia ISD, then the Byers school district will be forced to go dormant for one year.

The issue of consolidation will then be turned over to the Texas Education Agency, and county commissioners will be charged with dividing the district tax base among neighboring districts. Commissioners will have to decide if the Byers ISD tax base joins Petrolia ISD, Henrietta ISD, or is split among the two.

During the period of dormancy, the Byers school board will continue to function, and produce a budget to maintain the BISD facilities.

Residents of Byers ISD will continue to pay school taxes, including those for a school bond. Whatever remains in the school budget after the tax base is divided will be absorbed by the state and distributed to other school districts.

“People will still pay taxes and the leftover will be dispersed to other districts in Texas,” said Childs.

One falsehood that he has heard is that tax rates for those in Byers ISD will increase if the two schools consolidate. Tax rates will remain the same because taxpayers in each district pay the same combined rate.

Petrolia Superintendent Derrith Welch said he has received mostly positive feedback from citizens in the Petrolia school district, including the areas of Petrolia, Charlie, Dean and Thornberry.

“Some out there will probably vote against it, but he majority will vote for it,” said Welch, on his expectations of the election. “If it doesn’t pass, there’s quite a bit of (state funding) that we will lose.”

Welch said that if the consolidation effort fails, Petrolia expects to receive many of the students living in the Byers district, a lot of which have already transferred. But, PISD could lose out on an enlarged tax base, additional state funding and a state incentive to consolidate.

With consolidation, Byers students will reap the benefits of additional state funding at byers, an amount estimated at $460,000. The state has promised an additional $40,000 per year for 10 years if the two schools join.

Welch said Petrolia ISD has already seen an increase of $450,000-$460,000 in state funding due to the number of transfers from Byers ISD. That total would grow to $900,000 per year if consolidation were approved, noted Welch.

Early voting continues through May 8 at Byers City Hall from 8 a.m.-noon, and at Petrolia City Hall from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Polls in Byers will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 12 at the Byers Community Center for residents of Byers ISD. Petrolia ISD residents can vote at Petrolia City Hall, Dean City Hall and the Charlie Community Center on election day.

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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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