Hippos United’s first project is to support the Hutto ISD. We want to ensure the passage of the recently called TRE in Hutto. This small tax increase will secure levels of services at our Schools for the next 4-5 years.
A TRE is a Tax Ratification Election. The State of Texas limits Maintenance and Operations taxes for Independent School Districts at $1.04 per $100 in property valuation. If a School District votes to raise their tax rate above this $1.04 limit a Tax Ratification Election must be held, allowing the public to accept or reject the increase by majority vote of registered voters.
The School District in Hutto is facing multiple challenges; decreases in State contributions to the District along with falling property values and lower home-ownership. Hutto ISD is also growing at a rate of 4-6% per month. All of this has combined to form the perfect storm; lower revenue streams with rising student numbers, leaving our educators in a very difficult position.
As a community we have a responsibility to care for our children and the School District is asking for our help in this. A small contribution from all of us will allow HISD to continue providing a quality education and outstanding services to our children for years to come.
From the beginning of the 2010 school year through the end of the 2012 school year the Hutto Independent School District (HISD) has cut a total of $4.3 million from their maintenance and operations budget. This was prompted by State reductions in the public education budget. All department and campus budgets suffered a 10% cut. Veteran’s Hill Elementary was closed permanently, resulting in the loss of 70 jobs. Through these actions and reductions in energy consumption Hutto will be able to end the 2011-2012 school year (ends August 31st) with a very, very small budget surplus.
The cuts aren’t over, though. The coming 2012-2013 school year will be subjected to another round of funding cuts from the state, as well as continued growth of the student population. An anticipated $1.2 million budget shortfall demanded action from our School Board.
In April of this year the School Board held a final vote on a slate of proposed cuts totaling $1.25 million. The cuts include the elimination of approximately 12 more jobs (two art teachers, 2 counselors, 2 janitors, 2 nurses, and more), an increase in extra-curricular fees, the elimination of Letter Jackets for our athletes, a reduction in frequency of employee safety training and meetings, reductions in maintenance for the school buses, just to name a few.
These cuts passed the board and will take effect for the coming school year. Another round of cuts to the tune of approximately $1.4 million will have to follow for the 2013-2014 school year.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel, my friends! Enter the TRE.
The TRE is a Tax Ratification Election, a mechanism that the Independent School Districts of Texas possess to propose localized tax increases to raise revenue. On July 12th the HISD held a vote to hold a TRE. The scheduled election, or vote, will follow on September 8th. If this TRE passes it will result in the immediate rollback of almost half the imminent cuts. Not only this, but the TRE will secure the current levels of services at all schools over the coming 5 years. HISD will not have to make any additional cuts.
The TRE is very straightforward. It will levy an increase of $.13 per $100 of property valuation. In Hutto the average home value is $133,000** which means the average homeowner will pay an additional $140 per year in property taxes, or $11.66 per month. Seniors (over 65) will be exempt from the increase, taking into account that most of them live on a fixed income. A similar TRE was proposed last year and failed by a margin of 104 votes.
HISD, once the TRE is proposed and scheduled for a vote, is impotent. They cannot offer any public opinion or encouragement to voters. They cannot weigh in on any public debate except to offer facts and numbers. These are the laws of the land.
This election will be held on September 1st. Early voting opens August 15th.
Hippos United has swung into action with a newly established online presence. A facebook page went up, a twitter account was opened, the organization’s website launched, and a fundraising page is now available here.
Our organization is meeting on Sunday evening with an agenda of action items and messaging for the coming weeks. Our primary aim is to support the passage of the September 1st TRE.
Outside organizations are expected to join their voice with the few dissenting opinions among Hutto voters. Empower Texans has been silent since their original article on the topic back in mid-June, but we suspect we will hear from them again before long. We will be ready with a strong community message in support of our children, our property and business owners, and our city.