Since voters passed the 2005 Bond Package, Hutto ISD has added more than 3,400 students, opened three elementary schools and one middle school, and finished numerous upgrades, renovations and expansions at existing campuses and facilities.
With our continued rapid growth, building and renovating facilities was key to maintaining the quality of education in Hutto. Unless a school district uses its Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budget, of which 80% is generally used to pay staff, the only means for a District to update or build facilities is through a bond election. Alongside those facilities, making sure Hutto students and community had schools, fields and equipment they could be proud of was of the utmost importance.
In 2005, voters approved more than $26 million to help ensure Hutto students and the community maintained its tradition of excellent schools. From that bond, our third elementary, Cottonwood Creek, was built and the existing elementary schools, Hutto Elementary and Nadine Johnson Elementary, and the administration building were renovated. Hutto High School was expanded and the home side of the Hippo Stadium was expanded.
In 2006, voters approved another $26 million to build the district’s fourth elementary school, Ray Elementary, and expand Hutto Middle School. The Performing Arts Center was added to the high school and land was purchased for future facilities.
The following year, voters approved $85 million to build the district’s second middle school, Farley Middle School, construct the field house and renovate the field at the high school stadium, renovate the original Hutto Elementary School, add technology infrastructure to accommodate our growing staff and student population and add library books. That same bond also built the district’s fifth elementary school, Veteran’s Hill Elementary, completed Phase 2 of the high school expansion, built a new bus repair facility and renovated the middle school track facilities and added new tennis courts, expanding the number of courts available.
In 2008, voters approved $128 million in bonds for the district. However, due to financial constraints and massive cuts in state funding, the district has only issued $9 million of that amount, including the purchase of land, adding the warehouse and bus facility, and design on the district’s sixth elementary campus. All additional projects, including construction of elementary #7 and High School #2, have been put on hold indefinitely until demographic numbers justify the construction of these buildings.
Explaining Bonds and Payments
Public school budgets are divided into two parts, Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and Interest and Sinking (I&S or debt). M&O and Debt funds cannot be co-mingled. They stand alone. Budget cuts in the M&O budget do not directly impact bond amounts or payments. In addition, bond money can not be spent on operations of the district (salaries, supplies, etc.) So, while voters have approved bonds for the district, that money can not go toward helping the district following funding cuts from the state.
Bond payments are much like a mortgage. The rate is determined by the financial viability of the debtor (the district), interest rates, dollar amount of the loan and length of the pay back. Just as a mortgage, any debt approved by Hutto ISD tax payers has a specific length to the debt. The ceiling in Texas for public school debt of $.50. In response to tight financial times and to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars, in 2011, Hutto ISD refinanced the structure of its bond debt to lower payments, saving $5.4 million in interest payments.
When will debt taxes go down?
In addition, a debtor (the district) can not levy more than what will cover the amount of the debt payment. So, as Hutto ISD pays down its debt, the amount that can be levied will also decrease. Hutto ISD anticipates that debt taxes will decrease in 4-5 years.