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The Burnet school district is making access to technology a priority with the approval of a $1.4 million maintenance tax note.

On February 10, the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees voted for the tax note, which will help fund a districtwide 1:1 technology initiative ensuring each high school student is issued a Chromebook, or similar device, starting in the 2020-21 school year. Then, each year after that, incoming freshmen also will receive one. Students may use the laptops in school and at home.

“Lack of access to technology in classrooms has ranked (as) a high priority among staff during both years of the Superintendent’s Campus Cabinet feedback process,” said Superintendent Keith McBurnett in a district statement.

The issued computers help level the educational playing field for those students who don’t have access to one at home.

BCISD also will purchase additional Chromebooks to be shared among elementary and middle school campuses.

“We have spent the last two years upgrading each building’s technology infrastructure to support the digital network and the large increase of devices that will result from these purchases,” said BCISD Director of Technology Adam Hermes.

His department will work hand in hand with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction to issue the Chromebooks and help students and staff use them to their potential.

“The district’s 1:1 technology initiative allows all students to participate in collaboration and all teachers to investigate unique ways in delivering content and designing student work,” said Dr. Rachel Jones, assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “With that said, classrooms will continue to balance screen time with ‘screens down’ time as students interact virtually sometimes and face to face sometimes.”

These purchases will represent approximately half of the devices need to meet the district’s 1:1 goal.

By funding the purchases through a tax note, the district will pay for the devices out of its maintenance and operation fund instead of through its interest and sinking fund. In November 2019, the technology purchases were part of a bond that voters turned down. After its defeat, district officials received feedback from voters, who preferred that BCISD remove short-term assets such as Chromebooks from longterm bond projects.

The district will pay off the approved tax note $300,000 annually over five years at a 1.62 percent interest rate.

The district has developed an investment plan, coupled with strategically purchasing additional devices, so BCISD may not have to touch additional district funds because of the note.

According to BCISD officials, early projections indicate a chance the district would earn more from interest revenue by investing current funds and borrowing for future purchases instead of using existing monies to buy the devices.

“The revenue earned is projected to cover the costs of issuing the maintenance tax note and interest expenses,” said Clay Goehring, BCISD director of Business and Finance. “We are experiencing the lowest interest rates in, at least, the last twenty years, and it makes sense to leverage the low interest rates to fund this technology initiative.”