WOODSBORO – The Woodsboro ISD school board got an update on construction and also plans for an agreement which would allow expansion of a local wind farm during a recent meeting.
Despite a delay caused by recent rainfall, progress is being made on a new band hall and music room for the school district, which is located behind the administration building.
Superintendent Janice Sykora said underground utility work is underway, the building pad is complete and plumbing is being installed for the facility.
The new band hall and music room, which will cost an estimated $1.66 million, will replace the structure which was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
While community members eagerly anticipate a new music building to replace the previous one, which school personnel said served as a venue for community events, including the popular Christmas presentation, it was another item on the agenda which stands to bring a significant windfall of tax revenue to the district — the expansion of the Blackjack Creek Wind Farm.
That wind farm and the nearby Cranell wind farm, operated by RWE Renewables, are expected to provide $50,000 in revenue annually to WISD for 10 years.
In order to help attract the wind farm to Refugio County and property within the Woodsboro school district, board members gave preliminary approval to a Tax Code Chapter 313 agreement.
Sheryl Moore, the former superintendent for Sealy ISD who is now a Chapter 313 specialist with the Sara Leon & Associates law firm, gave an overview to WISD leaders about what the agreement would mean for the district.
“She is a retired superintendent who knows quite a bit about wind farms and Chapter 313 agreements,” Sykora said of Moore.
“I am on a mission to understand every school district in Texas that is involved in 313 and to help people understand it because it seems there is such a veil around it,” Moore said. “This company (RWE Renewables) will make a $70 million investment that will benefit Woodsboro ISD.
“The number one reason for doing this (a Chapter 313 agreement) is because property taxes in Texas are so high. The number one thing the (Texas) comptroller looks at is whether a company would come in without a 313 agreement. But the 313 agreement is a primary recruiting tool.”
These agreements, according to the state comptroller’s office, limit the appraised taxable property value for a business for school maintenance and operations taxes for 10 years, in exchange for other financial incentives to the school district.
There is a formula the comptroller’s office uses to determine the benefits to a school district which enters into such an agreement.
“They have some kind of voodoo algorithm that tells you all sorts of information but it’s based on experience — it’s not just numbers pulled out of the air. This is from the Texas comptroller,” Moore said.
Sara Leon “is a very good negotiator and will get you everything that you should be getting,” Moore said. “We negotiate on your behalf with the wind farm.”
Nathan Yates, a representative of RWE Renewables, told WISD officials in May that the wind farm would cover 30,000 acres and would create 200 to 300 jobs during the construction phase, which is expected to begin in early 2021 if the company proceeds with the project.
During a May school board meeting, Leon expressed her enthusiasm for the agreement.
“”We have fun work to do,” Leon said. “We get to bring a lot of value to the community and the school district.”
The expected lifespan of these wind farms is 30 years, Yates said, and in addition to construction jobs, a number of highly paid positions would help to operate and maintain the wind farms on a more permanent basis.