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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 12, 1999, New Braunfels, Texas N EW tid^HFELS 20332 MO 09 10/22/99    7    7 SO-WEST MIC RO PU BLI SHING 2627 E YANDELL DR EL. PASO, TX 79903-Herald-Zeitung Vol. 148, No. 38    12    pages    in    I    section    January    12,    1999 Tuesday Serving Comal County since 1852 50 cents Cornell keeps eye on AustinLawmakers open 76th session today By Chris Crews Staff Writer The Texas Legislature convenes in regular session for the 76th time today, and many local officials are anxious to see what transpires during the next 140 days. A governor that might have his sights on the presidency, a rookie lieutenant governor short on experience and a rare $5 billion budget surplus promise to make it an interesting session. Education issues were prominent in the 1998 campaigns, and New Braunfels Independent School District Superintendent Ron Reaves said he hoped the same issues would carry the same importance in the legislative session. “What is going to be interesting is to see if the campaign rhetoric will translate into action,” Reaves said. Reaves said the legislature was notorious for addressing education late in the session after most of the state funds had been doled out to other areas. “I hope they put education on the front burner ... and become more of a partner with local school districts rather than distancing themselves,” Reaves said. One of the issues Gov. George W. Bush championed in the last legislative session was to reduce local school property taxes. To do that, some say the state would have to play a larger role in funding the district’s annual budgets. In 1997, Bush and the legislature cut property taxes by $1 billion by reducing theOf Local Interest Texas legislators will address a number of topics in the session that opens today. Among those that will affect local residents are: • School finance • Teacher pay raises and funding • Abolishing the county treasurer’s office in Comal County • Increasing the Water Oriented Recreation District’s taxing limits • Regional underground water district over the Trinity Aquifer • Growth regulation and controls over subdivision development • Electric deregulation standard homestead exemption for homeowners. Reaves said the result was that the state did not give the districts a dollar for dollar payback. “We had to go back to the taxpayers and ask for more money — it was a shell game,” Reaves said. The average pay for Texas teachers is about $5,000 below the national average. Bush and some key legislators support sending $1 billion of the surplus to the districts and earmark it for teacher pay rais- CS- , * Reaves said he supported teacher pay raises but ques- * tioned the future of funding such a program. “Who will pick up the cost in the next biennium if the budget surplus is gone?” Reaves asked. “Will the stateSee LAWMAKERS/5 White House defends; House says, ‘If this is not enough, what is?’ WASHINGTON (AP) — President Clinton and House Republicans clashed in impeachment trial papers Monday, the White House claiming penury and obstruction allegations fall short of high crimes and misdemeanors and GOP lawmakers rebutting: “lf this is not enough, what is?” Clinton denied “each and every allegation” in the House-passed articles of CLINTON impeachment. The House, in papers filed a few hours later with the Senate, insisted the evidence against the nation’s 42nd president “overwhelmingly supports both charges,” peijury and obstruction of justice. The two documents were filed in advance of opening tnal arguments, set for Thursday in the Senate with Chief Justice William Rehnquist presiding. Clinton’s lawyers decided to forgo filing a motion seeking to dismiss the case at its very inception, although officials suggested they would make that motion after both sides had finished presenting evidence. The House decided against filing any immediate motions, as well, although lawmakers are certain to seek permission from the Senate later to call witnesses. The papers were filed as key House lawmakers met privately to plan the formal presentation of their case. “We will do a very good job and then when we reach the point of asking for witnesses, we think the senators will be in a more generous mood having heard our case,” said Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., point man in the impeachment effort. In a conclusion to its 105-page filing, the House termed the impeachment battle a “defining moment for the presidency.” Eckerd asks for, gets delay on store plans MARGARET EDMONSON/Herakl-Zertung By Bill O’Connell Staff Writer Eckerd officials asked New Braunfels City Council Monday to wait before considering plans for a new store. Council was scheduled to hear a proposal Monday on a new Eckerd store at South Walnut Avenue and Business 35. The proposal was delayed until February, however, to give city officials time to study revisions to the plan, which included a cul-de-sac on South Sycamore Street. “We haven’t had a chance to really go back and analyze this,” city planning director Harry Bennett told council Monday. The latest revision included a cul-de-sac to be built on South Sycamore Avenue next to the proposed site. Developers said they believed the cul-de-sac would address neighbors’ concerns about turning South Sycamore into a busy thoroughfare. Council voted to send the new Eckerd plans back to the city planning and zoning commission for review. The commission reportedly will consider the updated proposal Feb. 2 and then send it back to council for consideration on Feb. 22. The planning commission voted in November to send a recommendation to city council to deny the Eckerd’s request for a special use permit. Eckerd officials planned to move operations from the current store at Unicom Shopping Plaza on Business 35 West to a I 7-acre parcel of land currently zoned for residential and commercial use. Eckerd officials said they would rather work with neighbors at the proposed site than find a different location. Inside Abby........................ .......7 Business................... ........5 Classifieds................... .10-12 Comics....................... ........8 Crossword.................. ........7 Forum......................... ........6 Local.......................... ........4 Obits.......................... ........3 Sports...................... ........9 Today........................ ........2 Television.................. ........8 I Help wanted: Bus drivers needed Above: Comal Independent School District bus driver Lawrence Hubertus walks down the bus aisle, talking with and settling down children from Canyon Intermediate School. Left: Pulling the bus door shut, Hubertus pulls the bus away from the Canyon Intermediate School curb.    v / ROBIN CORNETTMdrald-Zettung new drivers difficult. Bus drivers generally begin their routes at 6 arn. and finish their morning routes by 9 a.m., then return at 2:30 p.m. and work until 6 p.m., he said. Officials at the TEA transportation department said starting pay for bus drivers generally ran between $6 and $7 an hour and increased toSee DRIVERS/5 I 5 ^ IWB I a. I , i.S ^4 /-S* ■‘K -*•»Ijg ■ Sh J - '', V Si M I—-J f • J I I I 1 — 1 School districts struggle to keep drivers on board routes throughout the county and added five new ones just this year. The shortage of bus drivers is more than just a local problem, as transportation departments statewide and across the nation also arc feeling the pinch. Sam Dixon, director for transportation funding for the Texas Education Agency, said working conditions and salary associated with being a bus driver made recruiting By Heather Togo Staff Writer A banner posted along the fence at the New Braunfels Independent School District transportation department sends the message loud and clear - “Bus Drivers Needed”. Comal County school districts are feeling a pinch from the nation’s latest job market boost as bus drivers continue to be in short demand. Ken Franklin, transportation director for Comal Independent School District, said the district faced a shortage in available bus drivers — a need that fluctuated each day. “We need at least I IO drivers, and some days we’ll be short three drivers. Tomorrow we might be short 11, and then some days we might not be short any,” he said. Low retention among many bus drivers made it difficult to plan daily routes and develop a consistent pool of drivers, he said. “When the economy is good, we (transportation departments) suffer,” Franklin said. “People come and start working, then they find a fulltime job with better hours and leave.” Franklin said low pay and irregular hours often made a bus driver position unattractive to people seeking employment, especially when other full-time jobs were available. “Right now, the unemployment rate is really low, which hurts us. lf someone wants to find a job, there are plenty out there,” he said. In December, the nation’s unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, the lowest peacetime rate since 1957. Franklin said drivers were required to double-up on bus routes on days the department was short regular drivers. “When they have to do someone else’s route in addition to their own, then generally the students will get in late to school and will be late getting home. This causes problems for both the schools and parents,” he said. Franklin said the district’s continuing growth also posed a transportation challenge. “I’ve been here ll years, and when I first started we had 50 routes and we’ve been adding new ones each year,” he said. CISD currently has IOO regular ;