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Blanco ISD Releases Frequently Asked Questions on Upcoming Bond Election
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 • Posted March 30, 2011

The following frequently asked questions were prepared by Blanco ISD to provide voters with information regarding the upcoming bond election scheduled for May 14.

1. What is a school bond?

A school bond is the way a school district borrows money for facilities, similar to a home mortgage. It allows a district to repay borrowed money on a given date and to pay interest at an agreed upon rate. The money is repaid from property taxes. Long-term financing is a method to fund the construction and/or major renovations of school facilities.

READ MORE: Check out the BCN Election 2011 coverage.

2. How is this bond election different from the one in November, 2010?

The bond election in November, 2010, consisted of one proposition. The bond election scheduled for May, 2011, will consist of three propositions.

The following are also differences: Deletion of elementary running trail, deletion of paving and striping of stadium parking area, addition of upgrade to restrooms and floor of elementary gym, reduction of cost of 4,000 square foot maintenance/transportation facility from $ 400K to $ 136K, increase in technology improvement cost from $ 100K to $ 200K.

3. What projects are planned for each of the three propositions, and what are these propositions’ estimated cost?

Proposed projects are according to current plans.

Proposition One has a projected cost of $ 7,685,000.

Proposed projects included in Proposition One include:

Elementary school—Renovation of the historical building, including 16 classrooms, computer lab, science lab, restrooms, gallery, and library; new cafeteria, kitchen, with stage; walkway canopies, conversion of library to two classrooms; conversion of existing cafeteria to art/music room; upgrading of gym restrooms and floor.

Middle School—Add drains and emergency equipment at science labs; add HVAC to middle school gym; add 1-ton split HVAC at server room.

District-wide—Add security cameras at all campuses; technology improvements.

Proposition Two has a projected cost of $ 310,000.

Proposed projects included in Proposition Two include:

High School—Re-grading and paving repair at campus parking area; stage modifications.

District-wide—Add 4,000 square foot transportation/maintenance facility; new school bus.

Proposition Three has a projected cost of $ 720,000. Proposition Three includes new tennis courts.

4. What planning has gone into the development of what is needed?

In August 2009, the Blanco Board of Trustees commissioned a district-wide facility study by a school planning consultant. The study included meetings with the BISD administration, site-based team, school board, and a Citizens Advisory Committee. In August 2010, a Citizens Advisory Committee recommended the Board of Trustees to call for a bond election to address the needs of the District’s facility study. On August 23, 2010, the Board of Trustees ordered a bond election for November 2, 2010. The bond failed to pass by five votes.

The Citizens Advisory Committee continued to meet during the interim, and continued to engage constituents. The committee re-evaluated its prior recommendation, and revised it to reflect the feedback it received from the community.

5. What are some demographic findings for Blanco County and Blanco ISD?

Blanco County has experienced significant growth in the last 30 years, from a population of 4,800 in 1980 to a projected population of 9,700 in 2010—over 100% growth. The facility study found that Blanco ISD has experienced slow but consistent growth, with an average annual growth rate of 2.65 % over the past ten years.

6. What are some of the facility needs at the elementary school?

Proposition One includes elementary school improvements.

Currently the elementary campus has ten classrooms in portable buildings. The fifth grade portable complex consisting of four classrooms has been utilized for over fifteen years. Portables are not meant to be permanent structures.

According to the facility study’s projections, at a 2.65% annual growth rate, and with the portables replaced, the elementary campus may need 20 additional classrooms within the next 10 years.

The cafeteria and kitchen areas need expansion to adequately accommodate student numbers at lunchtime. Currently, in order to process all students, lunch begins serving at 10:35 AM and concludes at 12:50 PM. Proposed plans call for the construction of a new cafeteria and kitchen with stage.

The gym is utilized daily by elementary PE classes, and by the high school and community as appropriate. The gym restrooms are of the 1950 era, and were constructed for high school use. The gym floor also is from the 1950 era. It is warped in certain locations, and has places of deterioration. The wood floor is too thin to sand down again; therefore, it cannot be refinished anymore. Proposed plans call for the renovation of the gym restrooms and gym floor.

Band is offered as an elective class in 5th grade. Currently, 45 out of a total of 65 fifth graders are enrolled in elementary band. These students are transported daily to the middle school in order to receive band instruction in a proper facility. Proposed plans call for the conversion of the existing cafeteria into an art/music room, which would accommodate elementary band students.

7. What is the history of the historical building?

In 1874, the Blanco Masonic Lodge imported quarried stone to construct a Masonic University at the site of the current historical building. The plans fell through for lack of funding, and the Lodge donated the land and the stone for construction of a new Blanco High School.

In 1884, an original two-story schoolhouse was constructed on the site. In 1893, this schoolhouse was destroyed by fire.

In 1902, the school was re-built, using the same stones that were originally quarried in 1874.

In 1921, the building was condemned, renovated, and re-opened in 1923. Its architecture is a "Mission Revival" style. Its structures retained the same stones that were quarried in 1874. In the 1940s and 1950s, periodic additions and repairs were made to the building.

Currently, the historical building serves no instructional purpose, and has fallen upon disrepair. There have been concerns as to the building’s air quality.

8. What are the plans for the historical building?

Part of the improvements at the elementary school will go toward improvements at the historical building.

The Citizens Advisory Committee discussed the historical building at length, and looked at all the issues involved with it. The committee, working closely with architect Randy Fromberg, agreed on a renovation plan that preserves the structural walls of the original building, and maintains its outer façade, yet upgrades the interior. In Fromberg’s design, the building is converted into a central library, flanked on each side by a computer lab and a science lab. In addition, two wings are added to each end of the building projected toward the rear, creating a central courtyard in the middle. It provides the elementary campus with sixteen new classrooms, a library, computer lab, and science lab. It gives the historical building an instructional purpose. According to current plans, the board of trustees plans to undertake this project if the bond issue is successful.

9. Are there any middle school improvements in the bond package?

Yes. Improvements include adding drains and emergency equipment at the science labs, and adding air conditioning to the middle school gym and the computer server room.

Proposition One includes middle school improvements.

The storage room situated between the 6th and 7th grade science labs includes an emergency shower. The shower works, but there is no drain in the room to dispose of the shower run-off.

The gym is utilized for PE and athletic classes during the day, interscholastic competitions after school, and by community leagues as may be appropriate. There are no air conditioning units in place at the present time, and the only openings to outside air are two doorways on the east side of the gym. Air circulation within the gym is provided by two exhaust fans that circulate unconditioned air. Adding air conditioning to the gym will provide for a more comfortable and safer experience for students, parents, spectators, and the community.

The server computer at the middle school is situated in a small room in the library. The server computer generates considerable heat as it performs its operations. An air conditioner would assist in making this room safe both for the facility and for the computer hardware.

10. Are there any high school improvements in the bond package?

Yes. Improvements include re-grading and paving repair at the parking lot, and modifying the stage floor. The high school improvements are included in Proposition Two.

The parking lot has fallen into disrepair on the east side, as a result of that section of the lot being in a low-lying area with inadequate drainage. The area as it exists now necessitates costly and on-going maintenance.

The stage in the high school cafeteria is used by theatre arts classes, and by school and community functions as appropriate. Renovations to the stage include upgrading the floor to a "theatrical" floor that would be safer for theatre students who practice and perform falls and other physical activities. In addition, the "theatrical" floor would improve the acoustics of the stage area.

11. When did the District last pass a bond election, and what was it for?

The District last passed a bond election in December 1997 to construct a new high school. The bond was for $6,500,000.

12. If the bond referendum is approved by voters, how will it affect my tax rate?

A school district tax rate is composed of two taxes—M & O and I & S. The Maintenance and Operations rate funds daily operational costs of the school district, such as salaries, supplies, and utilities. The Interest and Sinking rate funds the debt payment which pays off bonds.

The current I&S rate is 0.1117. With passage of the bond, the I&S rate will see an estimated increase in 2012 as presented in the table below. The estimated maximum I&S rate will be seen in years 2010 – 2014. After that, the I&S rate will gradually decline, with a sharp decrease in 2022 when the 1997 bond is paid off. (These figures are preliminary, subject to market interest rates at the time of bond sale.)

The potential annual and monthly impact over the next 2 – 3 years on home valuations is as follows:

 

Bond Size

Preliminary Tax Rate Increase

 

HOME VALUE

$ 75,000

 

HOME VALUE

$ 100,000

 

HOME VALUE

$ 200,000

Props 1, 2, & 3

$      0.0549

$ 41.18 ($ 3.43/mo.)

$ 54.90 ($ 4.58/mo.)

$ 109.81 ($ 9.15/mo.)

Props 1 & 3

$      0.0532

$ 39.89 ($ 3.32/mo.)

$ 53.19 ($ 4.43/mo.)

$ 106.38 ($ 8.87/mo.)

Props 1 & 2

$      0.0503

$ 37.73 ($ 3.14/mo.)

$ 50.31 ($ 4.19/mo.)

$ 100.61 ($ 8.38/mo.)

Prop 1 only

$      0.0474

$ 35.51 ($ 2.96/mo.)

$ 47.35 ($ 3.95/mo.)

$ 94.70 ($ 7.89/mo.)

Props 2 & 3

$     (0.0008)

$ (0.57)

$ (0.76)

$ (1.53)

13. Blanco ISD is labeled a "Chapter 41" district. What does this mean, and how does it affect my local taxes?

Texas school districts are divided into two designations: "Chapter 41" and "Chapter 42." These designations are for the state’s school funding purposes. A district’s designation is determined by a ratio between a district’s weighted student enrollment, and the property wealth of the district. "Chapter 41" districts are designated property rich districts, and "Chapter 42" districts are designated property poor districts. Blanco ISD is a "Chapter 41", or property rich, district.

The state’s method of funding public education is also at times referred to as the "Robin Hood" plan. Basically, the state will "recapture" local tax money collected from Chapter 41 districts, and "redistribute" this money to Chapter 42 districts.

Last year, $138,000 of locally collected Blanco ISD taxes were "recaptured" by the state, and "redistributed" to Chapter 42 districts.

Revenues generated through a local bond election are not subject to "recapture." Therefore, all revenues generated from bonds through a bond election stay within Blanco ISD.

14. Will the bond referendum increase my taxes if I am 65 or older?

No, senior citizens who are 65 years old or older and who have filed for a "freeze" on their homestead school taxes will not be impacted by a tax rate increase. To receive the senior citizen exemption, please contact the tax appraisal district.

15. How does Blanco ISD’s tax rate compare with other local school district total tax rates?

Blanco ISD’s total tax rate is low in comparison with other local school district rates.

  ISD                         YEAR

2010 – 2011

Blanco

$ 1.1517

Johnson City

$ 1.1936

Comfort

$ 1.21

Wimberley

$ 1.2327

Boerne

$ 1.314

Comal

$ 1.37

Hays

$ 1.4613

Dripping Springs

$ 1.49

16. Is technology in the bond package?

Yes. Technology can be funded through bonds. Technology improvements are included in Proposition One.

Funding technology through the bond election will allow the District to pay for this expense without budgeting it through the District’s Maintenance and Operations fund, which is subject to both the state’s funding shortfall and the state’s Chapter 41 recapture provisions.

Blanco ISD budgets $ 100,000 a year for technology. The amount included for technology in Proposition One is $ 200,000. This will cover the District’s technology allocation for the next two years. Bonds for technology are planned to be amortized or paid over a 5-year period to reflect the general life expectancy of the technology improvements.

17. Is a school bus in the bond package?

Yes. School buses can be funded through bonds. A school bus is included in Proposition Two.

Funding a school bus through the bond election will allow the District to pay for this expense without budgeting it through the District’s Maintenance and Operations fund, which is subject to both the state’s funding shortfall and the state’s Chapter 41 recapture provisions.

The amount budgeted for a school bus is $ 90,000. Bonds for the school bus are planned to be amortized or paid over a 10-year period to reflect the 10-year payment schedule of a school bus.

18. Are tennis courts in the proposed bond project?

New tennis courts are in Proposition Three of the bond election.

The current tennis courts were constructed over 25 years ago, in close proximity to what was then Blanco High School. They were constructed of asphalt, and located in a low area. The asphalt surface continually cracks and separates, requiring costly on-going maintenance.

In 2008-2009, the District looked at constructing six tennis courts adjacent to the current high school. This location would, 1) enable PE classes to use the tennis courts as part of the PE curriculum, 2) locate the tennis courts near the high school campus, 3) provide access to a restroom and concession stand facility for tournaments, etc., 4) provide for adequate parking space. Preliminary plans are for the tennis courts to be built at this location.

A geotechnical report of the soils at this location showed that the soils are expansive, and will need to be removed and replaced with non-expansive soils.

The tennis courts that were designed in 2008 – 2009 were designed using a post-tensioned concrete slab, in accordance to recommendations of the geotechnical engineering firm.

The new tennis courts would be an unlocked school facility; therefore, they may be available for community use when not being used for school related purposes.

19. Is there a 4,000 square foot transportation and maintenance facility according to current plans?

Yes. A 4,000 square foot transportation and maintenance facility is included in Proposition Two.

Currently, transportation maintenance is conducted at a site located a block away from the bus yard. The site is not an enclosed area, with exposure to the elements.

Currently, additional maintenance facility locations are at the middle school and the stadium.

Storage facilities for the District are located at the former administration building located on 13th Street, and in the historical building. According to current plans, the former administration building will be demolished, and the historical building will be used for instructional purposes. The District will need to re-locate its storage areas.

Last year, the District acquired property at the corner of Elm and 11th Street, located adjacent to the bus yard. According to current plans, the new transportation/maintenance facility will be constructed at this location. Plans are for it to include an enclosure for transportation maintenance, and adequate space for storage. In addition, it will provide a centralized location for the District maintenance department.

20. Are security cameras district-wide included in the bond proposal?

Yes. Currently the District has no security cameras. Security cameras would protect District property and students by serving as a deterrent to inappropriate activity, and/or assist in investigations, as appropriate. Security cameras are in Proposition One.

21. What are the terms of the bond? (These terms are preliminary and subject to change)

According to current plans, the bond will be a 20-year issue, insured by the Texas Permanent School Fund. The interest rate is estimated at a 4.5% rate, but is subject to change. Interest rates currently available are lower, but financial markets are subject to constant fluctuation.

Bond terms for technology will be a 5-year issue to reflect the general life expectancy of technology.

Bond terms for the school bus will be a 10-year issue to reflect the 10-year depreciation schedule of a school bus.

22. If the bond passes, would I be able to purchase some of these bonds?

Yes, these bonds would be available for purchase from the bond underwriter and local brokers. Consistent with market convention, they will be sold in $5,000 increments. A Blanco ISD resident wanting to purchase $5,000 or more of this bond issue will be given priority over investors who reside outside the District, ensuring that local orders are filled first.

The District’s financial advisor regarding matters related to bonds is Jennifer Douglas of Specialized Public Finance, Inc. in Austin. Her contact number is 512-275-7304. Their website is located at spubfin.com. Feel free to contact Ms. Douglas with questions about the specifics of the bond issue and the tax rate impact.

23. If a new elementary cafeteria is constructed, would it necessitate the removal of some of the old oak trees?

The cafeteria’s final location will be based on the results of a more complete site survey. The intent of the design is to preserve as many of the legacy oak trees on the elementary campus as possible.

24. Where can I go for further information on the upcoming bond?

Blanco ISD will have a link to further information and updates on its website at www.blancoisd.com. Information can also be obtained by calling the District offices at 833-4414.

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