Enrollment at Reagan County Independent School District is down for the first time in four years.

The district ended the school year in May with a total of 870 students enrolled in Pre-K through 12th Grade.

There were a total of 833 students enrolled heading into Monday’s first day of school this year.

“Those numbers will change a little,” High School Principal Kara Garlitz said. “We will continue to have kids come in over the next few days, even weeks.”

Middle School Principal David Kohutek said that he saw his numbers change on day one.

“We had 185 students signed up for middle school heading into the first day,” Kohutek said. “By the end of that day we added 20 students.”

The Reagan Hospital District Board of Trustees held two public hearings on their proposed tax rate of 22.8123 cents per $100 valuation - a rate that is over the district’s rollback.

Former Reagan County Chief Appraiser Byron Bitner was on hand for the first public hearing last Thursday.

“I didn’t like the article in the newspaper this week,” Bitner said referring to the front page article in last week’s Wildcat titled ‘Hospital’s proposed tax rate exceeds rollback.’ “I think the article was misleading, and I think you should tell the whole story if you are going to tell the story.”

The Wildcat article explained that the district was proposing a property tax rate for 2014 that is over the rollback rate. Furthermore the tax will increase the amount of money brought in to the district by $1,000,000.00 for operations. Finally, the article pointed out that Reagan County tax payers have the right to petition the hospital district for a rollback election. If a rollback election were held, and the rollback passed, the district would be forced to accept the rollback rate of 20.8354 cents per $100 valued instead of the proposed 22.8123 cents.

Bitner told the group that there were no inaccuracies in the article, but some important information, in his mind, was left out.

The grubbing going on now at the site of Reagan Hospital District’s future medical complex site may not look like much, but it is a major accomplishment in overall project.

“This is the beginning of our vision coming true,” Hospital President Linda Rees said. “Our intention was to give Big Lake a hospital that they can really be proud of, and this is the beginning of seeing that come to life."

The site work began last Thursday as a crew from Price Construction began clearing mesquite trees and stumps – known as grubbing – from the 14 acre site.

“Having that heavy equipment out there makes this project real to the community I think,” Rees said. “Most of the work to this point was done behind the scenes with contracts and negotiations. All of that is vital to the project and had to be done right. Now we can enjoy actually seeing work being done at the site.”

The gubbing work began about five weeks later than was scheduled.

The Reagan County Commissioners are looking to accept the effective tax rate for 2014.

The effecive rate for 2014 is 21.0835 cents per $100 valued. That is a four and a half cent decrease from last year’s tax rate of 25.7023 cents.

The effective rate is the rate a taxing entitiy would have to accept to bring in the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year.

The four and a half cent drop is caused by an increase in the county’s tax base.

The county’s base has increased 24 percent from $2,597,970,046.00 in 2013 to $3,239,554,645.00 this year.

“We think it is important to pass that savings down to our residents,” County Judge Larry Isom. “We work hard during the budget process to make sure we are being effecient with the tax payers money.”