By BOBBY HORN JR.
HUFFMANRiding a wave of heavy support during the early voting period, proponents of Huffman ISD $20.5M bond referendum coasted to an easy victory Saturday.
The bonds passed 708 to 260. During the early voting period there were 240 yes votes cast to 106 no votes. On Election Day the votes went 288 for and 154 against.
Like many school districts, Huffman used a strategy during the early voting period which has proved successful in other districts time and time again.
Polling locations were held at each campus. Voters were able to cast votes on April 30 at Copeland, May 1 at Bower, May 2,7, and 8 at Hargrave, May 3 at Huffman Middle and on May 4 at the May Community Center. The polling places were open during school assemblies such as band concerts, the high school athletic banquet or in the case of the May Center during Little League games. Political analysts say that parents who attend these types of events are more likely to vote for a bond package. This proved true in Huffman, where there were 251 yes votes cast at these events compared to 169 yes votes cast at the administration building during the entire time of the early voting period.
With voter approval secured, Huffman can now proceed with their largest bond package since 2002, when they build a new high school.
According to Superintendent Dr. Doug Killian, the largest chunk of the bonds will go toward athletic improvements. The district has set aside $10M of the funds for these projects. The centerpiece of the project will be a new multi-use stadium. The new stadium, Killian said, will feature an eight-lane track, field house, weight room and artificial turf. The current stadium has a seven-lane track, which does not meet UIL specifications for hosting track meets. Killian said that it is likely the new stadium will be built on land the district owns adjacent to the high school.
The district also plans to build new tennis courts.
We currently have only one, in disrepair. On the elementary side of the district, Killian said.
The bond referendum is not just about sports. Killian said that they have set money aside to improve technology district-wide.
We are envisioning projectors in all the rooms, high speed connections to the classes for virtual field trips, smart boards that students can tough and move images on a screen, a parent portal where they can look at attendance and grades in real time and a fiber ring that connects the extra district, sharing resources and servers in a cost effective manner, he added.
Killian said there is also a need for a new administration building. Currently administrative staff occupies four portable buildings adjacent to the administration building. Those are the lucky ones. The others, for lack of room, have offices at various campuses. Killian said that the district needs one central facility for administration. Since the district owns land around the current building, Killian said it just makes sense to build on the same site.
How much it will cost
Even with the new bond package, taxpayers will see their taxes go down, not up.
The current tax rate is $1.60 per $100 valuation. This is broken down into $1.37 for Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and $.23 for Interest & Sinking (I&S). The district uses the M&O budget for its daily operations while the I&S part can only be spent on debt service.
With the passage of House Bill 1 last year, the district will see its M&O go down to $1.04 next year. The I&S, if the bonds pass, is estimated at $.3439 for a total tax rate of $1.3839, almost 22 cents less than this year.
In 2008-2009, if there are no changes to state funding, the district said that the highest estimated tax rate would be $1.4851 per $100 valuation, although Killian said it would likely not be that high as the district retires old debt over couple of years.
Huffman voters OK $20.5M in bonds
By BOBBY HORN JR.