As you know, the 2019 bond proposal for Burnet Consolidated Independent School District was not approved by voters on November 5. As I shared on election night, we are committed to studying the results of the election, listening to our stakeholders, and bringing forward in the future a revised bond proposition based on the feedback we receive. We are in the process of publishing a short survey we hope voters will use to provide the district feedback about the failed school bond proposal.
With that said, the needs identified in the 2019 bond still exist. For example, Bertram Elementary School has 45 more students today than projected through our demographic study. That means the campus is on track to exceed its capacity even sooner than the original target of 2025. The district’s operating budget cannot accommodate the cost of adding a new classroom wing at the school to increase its capacity.
The other reality to be considered is that construction costs are going up every year and, in some cases, every month. As an example, when the Board of Trustees approved prevailing wages as part of the 2014 bond program, the Texas Workforce Commission wage survey for the Rural Capitol Area listed $9.78 as the average hourly rate for a construction laborer. The most recent data from the Texas Workforce Commission is from 2018, and the average hourly rate for a construction laborer for the Rural Capitol Area has increased by 52 percent to $14.87.
The district is in a very strong financial position, which has allowed the board to approve lowering the tax rate the past four years while also maintaining a “rainy day” fund balance of three months of operating costs. In addition, in planning to become a recapture district (sending money back to the state) in the next five years, Burnet CISD has set aside $1 million so it can address any future deficits caused by recapture.
Proactive planning has made it possible for BCISD to earn a Superior Rating in the state’s financial accountability system, lead area districts in compensation and benefits for staff, while also having the second lowest tax rate and the second lowest student-to-debt ratio among area districts. We are committed to being good stewards of our facilities and our tax dollars. One way to do that is by borrowing money for capital projects when the environment is optimal to do so. Municipal interest rates are currently at a record 20-year low, making large projects more affordable.
In the midst of talking bonds and finances, I would like to change directions and recognize three students that exemplify Spirit, Pride and Honor, and the excellence in Burnet CISD. As you have probably already heard, Hudson Bennet is a regional cross country champion. Jazlyn Marvin and Mitchel Howard were recently recognized by the Board of Trustees as National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Students. These accomplishments are significant, and it would be easy to think that Hudson is naturally fast, and Jazlyn and Mitchel are just smart, but I want you to know that these accomplishments don’t happen by accident. When I think about these three students, it is their work ethic and grit that made the difference in their performance, and it is those demonstrated characteristics that make me the most proud. Congratulations to all three of them!
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the administration, I would like to wish our students, parents, and community a happy Thanksgiving. All campuses and district offices will be closed the week of November 25-29. When classes resume on Monday, December 2, we will have three weeks of school before the end of the first semester and Christmas break, which is scheduled for December 23-January 6. We look forward to welcoming students back to school for the second semester on Tuesday, January 7, 2020.
To kick off the Christmas season, Burnet High School would like to invite the community to attend the fourth annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Burnet High School courtyard amphitheater on December 3 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The school invites the community to put an ornament on the tree, listen to caroling, and drink some hot cocoa to get in the Christmas spirit. I hope you will join us.