BURNET CISD BOND ELECTION CLARIFICATIONS

 STATEMENT: Burnet is spending over $1 million more than the state average, and more money per student.

The information used to make this statement is from GreatSchools.org and is utilizing data from 2016.  In 2016, BCISD was in the middle of the 2014 Bond program.  That inflated the expenses to $51.2 million that year.  The years prior and each year after, the spending has been between $39.1 to $40.9 million.  That is over $10 million below the state average.

 QUESTION- Where is the money from the Tax Ratification Election going?

The additional revenue made possible by the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) in 2018 was originally going to offset recapture payments to the state. As a reminder, under prior law, Burnet CISD was scheduled to send $3.2 million to the state this school year. With the passage of HB3, the recapture payment this year is zero. The District projects to have to make recapture payments to the state beginning in 2024. The additional revenue from the TRE allowed the District to provide historic pay raises for staff this year (7% pay increase for teachers, 5% for all other staff), and add two instructional partners to every campus to provide additional teacher support.

STATEMENT: The ballot language states, “THE ISSUANCE OF $33,100,000 OF BONDS BY THE BURNET CONSOLIDATED INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR SCHOOL FACILITIES AND THE LEVYING OF A TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF.” The last phrase, “the levying of a tax in payment thereof” means that the tax rate is going to increase with the passage of the bond.

That is not accurate. On August 26, the Board approved the 2019 tax rate of $1.185 which is a 7.5 cent decrease from the 2018 tax rate. Burnet CISD’s tax rate will remain at $1.185 with or without the 2019 bond.  If voters approve the bond, the tax rate is also projected to remain $1.185 for the 2020-21 school year, and is sufficient to service the life of this bond, and all other existing debt obligations without increasing the tax rate.

The language stating “the levying of a tax in payment thereof” is referencing the I&S tax rate of $0.195.  The District has the ability to pay for the debt with the current $0.195, with no additional tax needed.

The Board of Trustees and administration are committed to having low tax rates while also planning for growth, and maintaining or exceeding the standards of the Texas Education Agency. That is why the Board of Trustees has voted to lower the tax rate the past four years in a row, and is proud to have the second lowest tax rate among school districts in the area.

STATEMENT: The debt associated with the 2019 bond will result in a higher tax rate.

That is not accurate. The existing I&S tax rate, which is 19.5 cents, is sufficient to service the life of this bond and all other existing debt obligations without increasing the tax rate.

QUESTION: How can there be no tax rate increase of the 2019 Bond passes?

The answer is that there are two major factors allowing the District to decrease the tax rate even if the 2019 Bond Proposition is approved. Property values have been increasing significantly since 2014 (as a reminder, Burnet CISD has nothing to do with the appraisal of property values). At the same time, Burnet CISD is paying off existing debt (in some cases earlier than scheduled).

STATEMENT: The District should pay for all improvements out of the general operating fund.

The District spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on upkeep and renovations of buildings. One of the challenges that Burnet CISD faces, like all school districts across the state, is that 85% of the District’s $32 million operating budget is committed to staff salaries, utilities, and transportation costs. That means that after addressing those three areas, there is approximately $4.8 million available for other expenditures. What are some of the other areas that are covered in the budget?

$1.5 million on curriculum, instruction and campus budgets

$360,000 on technology

$650,000 on maintenance and custodial supplies, material and projects

$500,000 on band and athletics

There are other smaller areas still covered in the District’s operating budget, but just taking these areas into account, leaves approximately $1.8M of “discretionary funds” available.

To provide perspective, the Shady Grove Drive that is being funded out of general revenue costs approximately $750,000. The technology 1:1 initiative is projected to cost $2.7 million. The proximity card access system on every classroom door is projected to cost $1.6 million.

That is why school districts across the state utilize bond funds to address large improvement projects. As a reminder, Burnet CISD has the second lowest debt to student ratio among area school districts.

STATEMENT: The District should build a new school in Bertram instead of adding on to the existing Bertram Elementary.

Utilizing TEA guidelines for student-to-teacher ratios in grades PK-4, and Burnet CISD guidelines for grade 5, Bertram Elementary has an estimated capacity of 450 students. Based on a recent demographic report, Bertram Elementary is projected to exceed an enrollment of 450 students by the year 2025. That is why we are proposing, as part of the 2019 bond program, to add a new classroom building to increase the overall capacity of Bertram Elementary to 700 students. The cost for additions and renovations to Bertram Elementary is approximately $9 million. The cost for a new elementary school of similar size would be $25 million. The renovations and additions at Bertram Elementary will address student capacity at Bertram Elementary for the next 10 years plus based on current projections.

STATEMENT: The District has spread out bond payments beyond the original 20 year terms.

That is not accurate. The 2003 Bond will be paid off in 2024 (20 years after the bonds were issued).  The 2014 Bond will be paid off in 2035 (20 years after the bonds were issued). In the past 7 years the District has paid off debt early and has refinanced debt to take advantage of better interest rates. These financial decisions have saved voters over $3 million in interest payments.

In fact, based on the District’s efforts to manage its debt, the expected average life of a bond included in this proposal is only 12.47 years.  This short average life will be a factor in receiving low interest rates for the bond package.

SOME OTHER POINTS OF CLARIFICATION INCLUDE:

  • Burnet CISD’s current TEA academic accountability rating is a letter grade B. Principals from each campus presented plans to the School Board on Monday, October 21 on how campuses are addressing student achievement for all students.
  • Burnet CISD’s current TEA financial accountability rating is Superior or letter grade A- which is the highest rating possible.
  • Bond funds cannot be used for payroll expenses, but Burnet CISD is proud to lead area school districts in teacher pay and in benefits by using its budgeted operating funds. Burnet CISD is ranked number one in teacher pay among area districts, and has the second lowest tax rate in the area. The District is projecting the starting teacher salary for 2020-2021 to be $50,000.
  • In addition to campus supply budgets, every classroom teacher has been assigned $50 to purchase supplies/materials that are specific to their classroom.
  • The District has 4 months of operating funds available in fund balance for emergency purposes. The District has also set aside funds for future recapture payments and to support future pay raises for staff. When planning budgets, the District projects five years into the future.
  • The activity buses are used by all students, not just athletes. The activity fleet helps to reduce the number of miles put on route buses that are used every day.
  • Football does not receive new uniforms every year. All varsity athletic team sports are on a two year replacement cycle for uniforms. Several years ago, a community member made a donation two years in a row to the athletic department to purchase new helmets, football jerseys and volleyball jerseys. This has allowed the football team to have two additional jerseys and two helmets beyond what is provided by the District. Varsity uniforms are then passed down to JV teams and then to Freshmen teams. A uniform in Burnet CISD get 6-8 years’ worth of use.
  • The District consolidated from three elementary campuses in Burnet to two in 2013 to save on operating costs and prevent underutilization of buildings. The District has saved well over $500,000 a year in operating expenses because of the consolidation plan. The 2013 facility assessment deemed two of the wings at Burnet Elementary to be end-of-life. The cost to renovate and expand Shady Grove Elementary was approximately $10 million. The estimated cost at the time to tear down portions of Burnet Elementary and renovate was approximately $18 million.
  • The number of students per teacher in Burnet CISD is 15.1, the same as the state average.

The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to call for a bond election on November 5, 2019.  The election is for one proposition totaling $33.1 million.