Frequently Asked Questions
- How are bonds funded?
- What is a bond? Why do we need a new bond program?
- How do we know what needs to be included in the program?
- How much is the Bond? How will funds be used?
- How will the Bond impact taxes?
- How will the Bond impact schools and services?
- How does Robin Hood impact the bond?
- General Questions
HOW ARE MY SCHOOLS FUNDED?
There are essentially two tax rates that are paid by Spring Branch ISD property owners that comprise the local share of district funds.
The Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Tax Rate pays for day-to-day operational expenses such as salaries, employee benefits, supplies, transportation, fuel, insurance, maintenance, and utilities. No bond money will be used to cover these OPERATING FUNDS.
The Interest and Sinking (I&S) Tax Rate is based on the outstanding debt of the district. Debt is incurred when a district borrows money in the form of bonds in the same way a homeowner borrows money to finance the purchase of a home. It pays for design, construction, expansion and renovation of schools. These CAPITAL (BOND) FUNDS can also be used for large or long-term expenditures such as the purchase of school buses or technology.
CAPITAL FUNDS and OPERATING FUNDS are separated intentionally to meet different needs as described above. By law, the two must be kept in separate accounts and they are audited every year to ensure compliance.
WHAT IS A SCHOOL BOND ELECTION?
School districts must ask voters for permission to sell bonds to investors to raise money for capital projects including new construction, renovation or other improvements. Voters give the district permission to take out a loan to build and renovate and pay that loan back over an extended period of time.
Bonds cannot be used for teacher salaries or operating costs such as utility bills, supplies, building maintenance, fuel, and insurance.
Why did Spring Branch ISD call for a Nov. 7, 2017 bond election?
Operating a school district effectively requires periodic assessment of facility conditions and space availability for these students and programs. Spring Branch ISD recently completed a facilities assessment and developed a Long Range Facilities plan that found more than $1.3 billion in facilities needs. A Bond Advisory Committee recommended a package to the Board of Trustees, who then developed that recommendation into an $898.4 million bond package to present to voters.
This bond election was called by the Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees to address aging facilities across the district, including the replacement of the nine oldest remaining elementary schools and Landrum Middle school.
The bond package also would renovate and/or expand multiple secondary campuses, and provide funding for safety, security and technology upgrades. It would also provide funding to refresh Career and Technical Education classroom equipment, refresh performing arts musical instruments and uniforms, upgrade athletics including 4 turf fields, and replace older buses.
Every SBISD campus would be touched by this bond program.
A community-based Bond Advisory Committee, including parents, business and community representatives and district staff, analyzed the district’s needs. The committee reviewed the conditions of current facilities, enrollment growth projections, funding options, construction costs, tax impacts on homeowners, and a variety of possible scenarios.
The committee came to consensus on a plan and presented it to the Board of Trustees for its consideration. The board met weekly during the summer, beginning July 10, to consider and refine the bond package.
The Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to call an $898.4 million bond election asking voters to consider a proposition that, if approved, would provide funding for the following projects:
FACILITIES ($796.3 million)
Replace nine oldest remaining elementary schools. Replace Landrum Middle School. Secondary schools additions/renovations. Upgrade building systems across the district. Upgrade district athletics.
CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION ($10 million)
Refresh existing Career and Technical Education classroom equipment and develop plan for the future.
FINE AND PERFORMING ARTS ($3 million)
Refresh musical instruments and uniforms
TECHNOLOGY ($60.1 million)
Upgrade safety and security systems. Upgrade district and campus infrastructure. Refresh staff and student devices.
TRANSPORTATION ($13 million)
Replace older regular and special education buses.
BOND PLAN ADMINISTRATION ($16 million)
Administrative costs of issuing bonds, advertising for bids, etc.
What is the exact amount of the SBISD bond package?
What are bonds and how can they be used?
Bonds are used to pay for capital improvements such as constructing, improving or maintaining facilities and purchasing buses, technology or school sites. Bond money cannot be used for teacher or school administrator salaries or teaching supplies. Funds generated through the Interest & Sinking tax rate can only be used for paying back the bonds over time, much like a mortgage.
Specifically, how will bond money be used in Spring Branch ISD?
The bond package will replace/renovate nine of the district’s oldest elementary schools, Landrum Middle School. The district’s older buses will be replaced over time. Safety, security and technology will be upgraded and refreshed. Career and Technology classroom equipment will be refreshed, and performing arts musical instruments and uniforms will be replaced.
The district does not expect any tax increase as a result of this bond election, if passed by voters. The district’s capacity to issue bonds is based on projected value growth and the current Interest and Sinking tax rate of $.3045.
Bonds will not be sold until funding is needed for any given project.
What if I am a senior citizen, 65 years or older?
Your taxes will not increase as a result of this bond election. The school tax rate and the amount paid are frozen when a taxpayer turns 65, or is disabled. The rate is frozen as long as you live in the home and do not make major improvements that change its value. To request this exemption contact the Harris County Appraisal District at 713-957-7800.
Download your Over-65 Exemption form at: http://hcad.org/hcad-forms/hcad-all-forms/
How old are most of the buildings in Spring Branch?
Most campuses were built in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. Three elementary schools were built in the 1990s, five PreK centers were built in 2001, and 13 elementary schools and Spring Branch Education Center were rebuilt as part of the 2007 bond program.
Why do we need to replace schools that may have had new additions recently completed?
The schools recommended for replacement will be rebuilt where necessary and renovated where practical. School programs drive the need for more classrooms at some schools. Recent additions will be retained where practical.
How can we be assured that bond funds will be used as promised?
If the Bond package is approved by SBISD voters, the Board of Trustees plans to appoint a Bond Oversight Committee to review all expenditures to ensure the recommended plan is being followed.
How will the bond funds impact school safety and security?
The district’s 3,100 security cameras and visitor tracking scanners are 10-years-old and need to be replaced. The district’s wireless network needs to be expanded and upgraded to meet increased demand while maintaining network security to thwart external attacks.
How will the bond funds impact technology?
Network infrastructure, servers and switches, which run applications and route ever-increasing traffic, are aging and need to be replaced to ensure network security and stability.
How will the bond funds impact transportation?
The bond package includes $13 million to upgrade our older buses on an 18-year replacement cycle.
Since we are a Chapter 41 (“Robin Hood”) school district, how much of the bond money will leave SBISD?
None. Bond funds are not subject to the state’s “Robin Hood” funding formula. All of the proceeds from bond funds approved by district voters will remain in SBISD to directly benefit our children.
How much local tax money has been sent to the state because of “Robin Hood”?
SBISD has sent more than $160 million to the state in recapture – Robin Hood – since 2004, and our payments are getting larger every year. The funding formula remains in existence until lawmakers change it.
Where can I get detailed information on the recommendations?
Meeting agendas and minutes from the Long Range Facilities Committee meetings, Bond Advisory Committee meetings, handouts, research documents and the entire Bond Plan as approved by the Board of Trustees are available on the district bond site. Each campus also has copies of the detailed plan.
What is our current debt for bonds?
As of June 30, 2017, the district owed outstanding principal balance of $617.9 million. As of June 30, 2016, the ratio of net bonded debt to assessed value was 2.56 percent.
What is the limit on bonded indebtedness for school districts?
School districts must pass a $0.50 test with the Attorney General’s office in order to issue debt. There is a calculation that based on current values the debt tax rate will not exceed $0.50.
Can we afford to finance $898.4 million?
Yes. The ratio of debt service to assessed property values in Spring Branch is low. As debt/principal from prior bond authorizations has been paid, there is capacity for the new bond authorization without increasing the tax rate.
How long will the bond money last?
It is expected that the money will pay for improvements over the next 10 years.
How much does the state of Texas and the federal government pay toward building new facilities or improving existing schools in SBISD?
Not one cent. All funds for school sites and construction must come from the sale of bonds approved by residents of the district.
When will the bonds be sold?
Bonds will be sold through competitive bidding and in installments as funds are needed over the ten-year period.
Can the bond money be used for teacher salaries?
No. Under state law, proceeds from bond sales can be used only for constructing and equipping new buildings and improvements to existing facilities and certain other capital expenditures. The money cannot be used for ongoing or regular operating expenses, such as teacher and administrator salaries. Bond dollars must be expended for items with a useful longer life than one year.
If approved by voters, how and when will bonds be sold?
Bonds are sold through advertised competitive bidding or through an underwriter selected by the Board. Bonds are sold only as they are needed to begin work on the various Board-approved projects. No debt is incurred by the district until the bonds are sold and work is ready to begin.
How long will this bond money last?
The administration anticipates bonds would be sold and construction/renovation would occur over a 10-year period of time.
Will any school boundaries be changed as a result of this bond election?
There are no plans to change any school boundaries in Spring Branch ISD.
Are any schools being combined as a result of the bond program?
Contact us at [email protected].