Editor’s note: as part of The Community News’ ongoing coverage of the November bond election for Aledo Independent School District, we will feature “Five Questions With” for a three part series. In this, the final installment of the series, we spoke with the district’s chief financial officer, Earl Husfeld. This article originally appeared in the Oct. 13 issue of The Community News.
1. What would the tax impact be on households in the district?
The projected debt service tax rate increase due to the 2017 bond program is $2.42 per month for each $100,000 of taxable home value for Proposition A, and $0.33 per month for each $100,000 of taxable home value for Proposition B. The cost for both propositions combined is $2.75 per month for each $100,000 of taxable home value.
If you are 65 years of age or older, the State Property Tax Code allows for school property taxes on an individual homestead to be “frozen” at the age of 65. If you have filed for the “Over 65 Homestead Exemption,” there is a ceiling on the amount of school taxes to be paid. The only exception is this ceiling amount maybe adjusted if improvements are made to your home. As such, a tax increase from a new bond program cannot increase the applicable tax ceiling of a taxpayer that has qualified for the “Over 65 Homestead Exemption.”
2. What is the current debt per student number? If this bond were to pass, what would the new number be? How does this number compare to the debt per student in comparable districts?
As of August 31, 2017, the District’s outstanding bond principal amount is $176,257,121. The current student enrollment at that time was 5,651. This would equal a debt per current student of $31,190. If both of the 2017 bond propositions were to pass, using the same number of students, the debt per current student would be $44,099. While both of these calculations are technically correct, they fail to take into consideration the number of students that will use the District’s campuses over the lifetime of these facilities. For example, the District will very likely have at least 5,651 students over the next 20 years using the District’s current facilities. The District’s current outstanding bond principal amount divided by this number of student, 113,020, yields a debt per student of $1,559. To me, this number more accurately reflects the District’s debt per student.
3. How much of the 2008 and 2015 bond funds remain and what will they be spent on?
As shared with the District’s Board of Trustees at their September 18th board meeting, there is approximately $300,000 of unencumbered funds remaining from the 2008 bond program. These funds are not unspent bond funds, but rather interest income earnings that have accumulated over the years since the 2008 bonds were originally sold. The School Board has not made a final decision at the what these remaining funds will be spent on.
Also during the September 18th board meeting, a report was shared with the School Board on the status of the 2015 bonds funds. Per that report, there is approximately $14 million of 2015 bond funds remaining as of August 31, 2017. These funds are continuing to be spent on projects contained in the 2015 bond election authorization.
4. How were the numbers calculated that were presented to the bond committee for construction costs, etc.?
The construction costs presented to the 2017 Bond Steering Committee were determined from a variety of sources. One of the primary sources was discussing current school construction costs with many of the Metroplex general contractors that routinely build schools. Also reviewed were bid costs of recent and current school construction projects that VLK Architects is associated with. Also factored in were any related costs the District experienced with the construction of Walsh Elementary School. And finally, an escalation factor was applied to these costs to reflect the District will not bid these projects for 12 to 18 months from now.
5. What other information would you like the public to know?
Bond dollars may not be used for teacher salaries and other such operating expenses of the District. Bond dollars may only be used for items such as new schools and facilities, expansion and renovations of existing facilities, furniture, technology, equipment, buses, and new school sites.