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Mt. Pleasant Pilgrim’s part of animal cruelty probe

By Glenn Evans 

The Mount Pleasant Police Department is investigating an animal cruelty complaint filed against the Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. slaughterhouse there based on an undercover report issued by the Humane Society of the United States.

Video shot by Humane Society staff working undercover, in the Mount Pleasant slaughterhouse and in a Georgia chicken house, purports to show Pilgrim’s Pride workers brutalizing the birds they are processing.

Birds were punched while shackled in place, violently shackled and re-shackled repeatedly and thrown indiscriminately, the group’s video shows.

“Pilgrim’s Pride is a company that has refused to make even modest animal welfare reforms,” Humane Society spokesman Matt Prescott said Wednesday. “And, sure enough, just a few days in their operation showed there is extreme animal abuse going on. … That should be criminal-level animal cruelty. And we’re hoping for prosecution of these individuals.”

The Humane Society filed its complaint with the Titus County Sheriff’s Office, which forwarded it to the Mount Pleasant Police Department.

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Texas Rangers probing Kilgore College finances

By Glenn Evans 

The Texas Rangers have launched a probe into finances at Kilgore College, where the status of longtime finance director Duane McNaney was cloudy as of Thursday.

McNaney was not terminated on Wednesday, college spokesman Chris Craddock wrote in an email response to questions from the News-Journal. Craddock also said he is “not in a position to confirm nor deny that the Texas Rangers are investigating anything at the college.”

Kilgore College President Brenda Kays did not return repeated phone messages left for her Thursday.

Later Thursday, Craddock issued a news release stating the college has identified about $6,000 in missing funds and that an employee had been terminated in late May as a result of the discovery. The release said The college police department is working with the Gregg County District Attorney’s Office and an external auditor to investigate the situation.

In a statement in the news release, Kays said, “Certain matters are still under investigation and it would not be appropriate to comment further until those inquiries are complete.”

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East Texas school districts face budget crunches

By Meredith Shamburger 

Carthage ISD is facing a budget crunch for the 2016-17 year — a very big one. About $7.5 million in revenue is expected to disappear, and the district has a total budget of about $23.7 million.

Superintendent Glenn Hambrick describes it as a “double whammy,” because property values are down and state legislators haven’t renewed a funding program that provides millions of dollars to the district ahead of a September expiration date.

“We’ll present some proposals to the school board, and they have some very difficult decisions to make, but obviously we have to operate the schools,” Hambrick said, saying district officials are working to get a balanced budget at a time despite funding challenges. “We’re not getting a lot of sympathy from Austin.”

Carthage, Hallsville and West Rusk ISDs are among school districts in the state bracing for funding cuts after the Legislature voted to repeal Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) effective Sept. 1.

ASATR was created in 2006 when the Legislature reduced property taxes by nearly one-third. Additional funding was granted to certain schools to balance out the loss of funding from the taxes.

ASATR funds meant districts could maintain the same level of per-student funding that they received before the property tax reduction.

Many districts statewide, including in East Texas, still rely on those funds.

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