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LA-JOYA-LOGOLA JOYA — La Joya Independent School District board discussed the findings of an annual financial report for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 that shows the district has approximately an extra $30 million in its general fund.

The school district’s general fund has increased from $63 million last year to over $93 million this year, officials said at last week’s board meeting. Revenues exceeded expenditures by over $25 million after the district did less spending than what they budgeted for.

“The district’s very careful in spending, despite the fact that the budget is very large,” said Noel Garza, an accountant with Reyna & Garza.

He added that the tax rollback allowed the district to tap into additional state funding and revenues, which brought in nearly $18 million.

Garza said the district was “able to save local taxpayer money by taking advantage of federal monies that you can receive and utilize in the district.”

For example, the U.S. Department of Education awarded LJISD with nearly $56 million in federal awards.

The district also has better control of their inventory by utilizing the physical plant (old bus barn).

“Never before has La Joya’s fund balance grown by $30 million, that is something that is history in the making,” said Dr. Alda Benavides, LJISD superintendent.

The district has benefitted from the board’s request that everyone keep track of what they are doing and what they are spending to keep an eye on LJISD’s finances.

“What really impressed me is that we were able to open schools last year and at the same still be able to save money,” said Benavides. “That is unbelievable.”

LJISD has opened 10 new schools in the last four years.

In other business, officials discussed the district’s methods for addressing school bullying. The district has begun using different strategies such as counseling sessions, bullying lessons for school administration and students and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

By teaching what bullying is, there have been more reports made, district officials said.

One of the primary things addressed with the principals is to act on reports and knowing the difference between bullying, teasing and tattling.

The district now has six certified trainers that will conduct two-day trainings for 13-person committees selected from each campus. The committee will train all professionals and paraprofessionals on their campus with follow-up trainings as needed. Lessons will be given to parents and students, as well.

In other items:

• Garza Elementary was named a Public Education Grant (PEG) School because of low test scores last year. Over 50 percent of the students did not do well on the standardized tests last year. The school is notifying parents.

Parents will have the option of transferring their children to another school in the district for the next school year. But Benavides said she has seen improvement in benchmark scores, and doesn’t see many kids transferring to another school.

•  As of Dec. 15, LJISD had increased enrollment by just over 1,000 students. After the holiday break, the district added at least 150 more students. More than 75 students registered during the first two days of the second semester.

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