Voters in the Burnet school district will decide May 2 on whether to issue almost $30 million in bonds for a number of projects.
During a special meeting February 10, the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved calling the bond election, which will have two propositions.
Proposition A is for $23.9 million, which would go toward projects related to student numbers, learning environments, infrastructure, and safety and security.
Proposition B is for $5.76 million and would focus on improvements to athletic facilities at the high school and middle school.
In November, BCISD voters turned down a $33.1 million bond for many of the same things on the upcoming initiative. The defeated bond lumped together all of the district’s projects and funding.
From voter feedback, BCISD drew up Proposition A without including funding for athletic projects, technology projects, painting projects, or ceiling tile replacement projects.
“Forty-three percent of Proposition A is focused on addressing student enrollment growth in Burnet CISD,” said Superintendent Keith McBurnett in a district statement.
A main issue Proposition A addresses is student numbers at Bertram Elementary School. Currently, the campus has a capacity of 450 students. McBurnett pointed to a July demographic study that projected Bertram Elementary would reach 400 students by 2022.
However, it didn’t take that long.
McBurnett said the campus jumped from 371 students to 404 during the 2019-20 school year.
“By funding a classroom addition at Bertram Elementary now, the district will avoid having to add portable buildings to the campus, and because of the rising construction costs due to inflation, building now will save the district money in the long room,” the superintendent added.
During the February 10 meeting, the board also approved a class-size waiver for a first-grade class at Bertram Elementary. The state mandates a 22-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, but, due to the surge in enrollment on campus, one of the first-grade classes exceeded that ratio.
Even if the district added another first-grade class at Bertram to stay within the state-mandated student-to-teacher ratio, there would be a problem.
“The district could hire an additional teacher,” McBurnett said, “but there is currently not an open classroom at Bertram Elementary for an additional first-grade classroom.”
Under Proposition A, 43 percent of the funds would go to student enrollment/growth projects such as expanding Bertram Elementary to accommodate up to 700 students and purchasing a number of buses. The remaining portion of the $23.9 million would fund learning environment projects (24 percent), infrastructure projects (23 percent), and safety and security projects (10 percent).
Proposition B would fund the construction of a high school weight room with baseball and girls soccer locker rooms and athletic field turf and a six-lane track at Burnet Middle School.
While many voters felt athletic projects should not be included in a bond, others voiced their support for them, according to McBurnett.
Under the May 2020 bond proposal, voters can consider each proposition independently.
While an almost $30 million bond would seem like an impetus to raise the tax rate, district officials are actually looking at lowering the upcoming 2020-21 property tax rate by a half-cent.
The projected rate is $1.18 per $100 valuation.
Along with lowering the tax rate, the school board plans to pay off “targeted existing debt” early in the 2020-21 school year.
“After the failed 2019 bond election, the Board of Trustees sought feedback from voters and listened carefully to that feedback,” McBurnett stated. “The composition of the May 2020 bond program honors the feedback from voters by removing projects to reduce the overall size of the bond program, paying off existing debt, lowering the tax rate, and giving voters a separate choice concerning athletic projects.”