Comptroller delivers school start date report
In February, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn delivered to the state's top officials and members of the 2005 Texas Legislature the final report of the School Start Date Task Force. She formed the task force to further explore school start date issues presented in her special report, Saving Summer: Lessons Learned.
"As I stated in my original report, the academic benefits of stretching the school year have not been proved," Strayhorn said. "What we do know: it's costing Texans $790 million annually. My goal is to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom with the teachers and the students, where it belongs. Our schools are facing tremendous budget challenges and fiscal discipline is more important now than ever before."
Findings and recommendations in the report include: a school calendar with a start date the week of September 1 and ending the first week of June to benefit migrant students, working educators and teachers, and the state's economy; moving standardized tests from April to September to reduce the tendency to teach only test material; and moving fall semester examination to mid January to give students a period after the Christmas holidays to review coursework before final semester exams.
Comptroller reviews city of Beaumont
In February, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn released her local government management review (LGMR) of the city of Beaumont. The review focused on the city's Human Resources Department, Police Department and accounting and payroll operations.
The report contains 25 recommendations that could help the city improve its operations and the delivery of services to citizens. The LGMR team recommended that the city develop and implement a work force and succession planning process to meet short- and long-term staffing needs; contract with an external audit firm to perform annual internal audits; appoint a committee to develop a recruitment plan aimed at increasing the diversity of the city's police force; and centralize all city dispatch services and seek agreements with surrounding area emergency service providers to create a central dispatch point for all emergencies.
Texas increases investment in Israeli bonds
Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced in January that the Texas Treasury purchased $2 million in new State of Israel bonds and renewed $2 million in bonds scheduled to mature at the end of January.
"State of Israel bonds have been and will continue to be an important part of the treasury's investment portfolio," Strayhorn said. "These bonds have proven to be a sound investment and will pay solid dividends for Texas for years to come."
The purchase of the new bonds and the renewal of the mature bonds will bring the Texas treasury's total investment in State of Israel bonds to $20 million.
"This is the highest level of investment in State of Israel bonds since Texas began purchasing them in 1994," Strayhorn said. "I am a staunch believer in the state of Israel. The Texas Treasury's investment in State of Israel bonds has increased 67 percent since I took office."
Sales tax collections rise
In February, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn reported that state sales tax collections rose for the 17th consecutive month in January. The state collected $1.39 billion in sales tax revenue, up 6.1 percent compared with January 2004.
Also, Strayhorn returned $502.8 million in local sales tax to Texas cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts, up 5.2 percent compared with sales tax distributions to local governments in February 2004.
"These numbers indicate that Texas' recovering economy had a positive impact on holiday season sales," Strayhorn said.
January state sales tax collections and February's local sales tax allocations primarily represent sales made in December, but also include some earlier sales.