The election is set for Saturday, May 10.
According to Runge ISD Superintendent Janice Sykora, the school board, after hearing the recommendation of the facilities committee, unanimously decided to ask the voters for a $22 million bond to be paid over 10 years.
The project will include major renovation to the 1930 high school building and new facilities to eliminate portable buildings and replace them with permanent brick and mortar classroom space.
The proposed project includes a new entrance to the elementary school on a side street with new classrooms more appropriate for elementary school age students. Two new gyms, a new transportation facility, new ag building and a new football stadium with eight-lane track are among the list of facility improvements included in the project.
Student and staff safety and concerns regarding making the facilities for accessible for the disabled, were top priorities identified early on in the planning stages, as well as bringing modern facilities to enhance the quality of education at Runge ISD.
“We struggled for months on whether or not to tear down the 1953 gym which has no air-conditioning and heating,” Sykora explained. “The community and the board finally came together and they said, ‘You know, it is not handicap accessible, it would be great as a practice gym, but we need to move on.”
A public meeting to discuss the bond election is set for Tuesday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria. The architect will be there to present information about the proposed project, as well as consultants who will present financial information.
Architect Jim Singleton, who has been working with the school district on preliminary planning, said the project will add about 70,000 square-feet of facility space to what the schools are currently using, allowing room for future growth in the school district.
Information the architect shared shows that the high school building, elementary wing and cafeteria will remain, while the other buildings including gym and various outlying buildings will be removed or demolished to make space for new facility construction.
The existing gym will remain until the two new gyms are finished and then be demolished to make way for a new band hall.
Under the proposed project, work on the new football stadium is planned to begin at the end of the 2014 football season.
New baseball and softball fields and tennis courts are also part of the project to be located at north school property.
“The architect for the 1930 Art Deco Runge High School Building was Frederick E. Giesecke,” Architect Jim Singleton, who is working with the district on the proposed project said. “He had offices in Austin and Houston at the time, but more importantly he is credited with starting the architecture classes and developing the Department of Architecture at Texas A&M University as well as designing several buildings on the A&M campus.”
“The Runge High School Building is a fine building and they have done a good job of taking care of it,” Singleton said. “We are going to do some interior remodeling of the building and some exterior dressing up but will keep the Art Deco details and character.”
The proposed project will convert portable temporary classroom space to permanent construction. The district currently has 87,485 square-feet of space, including portable buildings. If the project is completed, the district will have 115,667 square-feet of permanent classroom and facility space – an increase in space of about 32 percent.
Because of the ongoing oil and gas boom associated with production of mineral resources within the Eagle Ford Shale, the tax impact to the average homeowner will be relatively light, according to district officials, considering it is a $22 million bond financed over 10 years.
If approved by voters, the bond project will raise the total tax rate from $1.04 per $100 taxable value to an estimated $1.50, depending on the value of taxable property in the district. The maintenance and operations rate will remain at $1.04 but the interest and sinking tax rate (estimated for now at $0.46) may rise or fall depending on the taxable values of property in the district which are reassessed each year. If values rise, the rate will fall, and if values decrease, the rate will increase.
The new total tax rate for the district, if the bond passes, will actually be the same rate that was applied in 2005. This is due to the fact that tax rates for the district have dropped over the past nine years.
So what does all this mean to the average homeowner in the Runge school district?
According to information from Southwest Securities, who is working with the school district on the project, a homeowner with a home valued at $50,000 will see an annual increase in taxes of $230 if the bond issue is approved by voters. This translates to $19.17 per month.
The bulk of the $22 million project, 86.62 percent which amounts to $19.05 million, will be funded by the oil and gas segment of tax revenue.
Residential homeowners in the district will pay an estimated $407,000 of the project which amounts to only 1.85 percent.
The remaining part of the project is paid under the classifications of real industrial (6.05 percent), real farm and ranch improvements (3.29 percent) and real acreage – land only (1.27 percent.)
For homeowners age 65 and older who have applied for and received a tax freeze, also known as senior citizen exemption, there will be no tax increase on their homestead plus 20 acres if the bond issue is approved by voters.
Runge ISD School Board President Oscar Caballero said that a project of this kind cannot be done without the support of the community.
Runge ISD was recently placed under chapter 41 (property wealthy district in comparison to chapter 42 property poor district) by the Texas Education Agency.
State funding the district had previously received amounting to about $2 million was terminated when the district became a chapter 41 district, and the district now is required to send about $1.7 million of its tax revenue to the state for distribution to other school districts.
The loss of $2 million plus the $1.7 million now required to be sent to the state, has amounted to a $3.7 million reversal for the district, Caballero explained.
“Since the financing of Texas schools is a revenue neutral formula, districts can only keep funds based on a school’s enrollment number primarily,” Caballero said. “There is no formula to take into account maintaining school facilities other than through a bond election.”
“We hope eventually that our representatives in Austin will re-examine this funding formula as to not create an additional tax burden on our local taxpayers. However, until then, school districts must continue to operate under the current laws.”
“The board and committee members are recommending a $22 million bond to be financed over a 10 year period,” Caballero said. “In several discussions, board and committee members have expressed their concerns of paying the bond proposal as soon as possible due to the possible changes in the oil and gas market. Hence, the 10 year finance period. No one has a crystal ball to predict what will happen in the next 10 years but we do believe that now is the time to put the bond proposal on the voter’s ballot.”