Local school superintendents, elected officials among those named to panel on school finance
State Sen. Deuell wants public input to prepare for possible special session

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

March 23, 2004 -- A number of local elected officials have been asked to participate in a Citizen Advisory Panel on Public School Finance by State Sen. Bob Deuell of Greenville.

The panel is to be charged with collecting public input on the school finance issues and to provide Sen. Deuell and his staff with feedback and opinions on specific proposals in preparation for an anticipated special session of the state legislature.

Earlier this month, Sen. Deuell announced he would be forming the panel to assist in getting public input on school finance proposals. Deuell said response to his request to serve has been overwhelming.

"I think it is a testament to the importance of this issue that so many people have contacted my office to volunteer for this panel," Deuell said. "My office has received hundreds of responses from my constituents, and I look forward to these community leaders helping me gauge public sentiment on the various finance proposals."

Named to serve on the panel from Hopkins County are Bill Elliot, President and CEO of Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce; Bruce Fielden, Cumby ISD Superintendent; Bryan Neal, Como-Pickton CISD Superintendent ; Mark Keahy, Sulphur Bluff ISD Superintendent ; Paul Jones, Saltillo ISD Superintendent; Terry Goldsmith, Sulphur Bluff ISD school board trustee; Hopkins County Precinct 1 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker; and Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap.

"I've got some thoughts on how we are going to finance [schools]," Millsap said. "It seems like the governor is going to put how to deal with taxation across the board -- counties, schools, hospital districts and cities-- on the special session, how are we going to capture revenue to operate all the government entities."

Sen. Deuell's office said a letter has already been received from Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker addressing the continuous string of unfunded mandates from state government that are forcing additional financial hardships on local governments as well as a potential for tax increases while, at the same time, the state government offers no financial assistance.

Deuell said he has already contacted the panel with one basic question -- "Should the Governor call the Legislature into special session to deal with public school finance issues?"

"I asked the panel if we should go into special session, and the response has been an almost unanimous yes," Deuell said. "I believe the public sentiment is that we need to address this situation now, and I am confident the legislature will come to a consensus on a plan that will be beneficial for all Texans."

Sen. Deuell's office has also provided members of the panel with the recently issued report of the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance. The report contains several specific proposals that Sen. Deuell will be addressing with the panel in the coming weeks.

Sen. Deuell's office is now making preparations for the first meeting of the Advisory Panel, which should take place in the near future depending on the timing of a special session.

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