HISD (copy)

In this March 2019 file photo, Hallsville ISD Superintendent Jeff Collum, left, speaks with community members. Collum says a proposed bond election would not increase the district’s tax rate.

Taxpayers in Hallsville ISD could see improvements in their schools without an increase in the tax rate.

Superintendent Jeff Collum said the district is in a strong financial state, with the help of House Bill 3, to get a bond approved without raising taxes.

“With what House Bill 3 has done, the compression of the (maintenance and operations) tax rate, it’s helped on the maintenance and operation side, but it’s put us in a position financially where we can leave our (interest and sinking tax) rate the same and generate this new money,” he said. “It’s a really good position for a school district to be in.”

House Bill 3, also known as the school finance bill, provides $5 billion for lower school district taxes and $6.5 billion for classrooms and teachers.

Collum said the different tax rates take care of different budget needs for districts. The M&O rate deals with day-to-day expenses such as salaries, books, buses and other district needs. The I&S rate helps with bonds and debts.

“House Bill 3 money came in to help the M&O and teachers and salaries and those costs,” he said. “There weren’t new dollars to take care of bonds and debts. That burden is still on the local school district.”

The board of trustees heard an update on information related to the bond at a special meeting Friday.

According to the bond information on the district’s website, if the bond is passed, the I&S tax rate would remain the same at 33 cents per $100 valuation. House Bill 3 tax compression will lower the M&O tax rate to 97 cents per $100 valuation, making the district’s total tax rate $1.30 per $100 valuation.

Collum said the bond would be financed under that $1.30 tax rate.

If the Legislature changes school funding in two years, because the I&S tax rate is separate from the M&O rate, the bond still will be financed under the I&S rate, Collum said.

While the bond will have no impact on the tax rate, Collum said property values could still go up — which the district does not control — and the amount paid in taxes could increase.

With the bond, he said the district could take care of some debt and other projects that have been delayed.

One of those projects is security upgrades at the junior high school campus.

“When you walk in, it’s the only campus that doesn’t have that two-tier entry system with the safety vestibule,” he said. “You still have to buzz in on those front entrance doors. We want to go ahead and secure that whole front vestibule and put in a glass and really make that more secure.”

Aside from the security upgrades, the campus needs other upgrades such as new tiles, paint, carpet and other cosmetic changes, Collum said.

Other big projects in the possible $50 million bond would include a new auditorium at the high school campus on Cal Young Road and a new elementary school campus on land owned by the district at Loop 281 and Page Road.

Other bond funds would go to smaller maintenance projects such as roofing, heating and air conditioning, Collum said.

The bond is needed to address growth in the district, he said. The influx in growth is not coming from out-of-district transfers, though.

“I heard some rumors that we had 3,000 transfers, we had 2,000 transfers. That’s not true,” Collum said. “We have less than 300 transfers districtwide.”

If every out-of-district transfer student was pulled from every campus, the district still would see a bond proposal, Collum said.

“If you throw in the natural growth versus fabricated growth, the transfer influx is fabricated growth,” he said. “If we’re looking at more influx of real growth, you still have students moving in constantly. We’ve grown 900 kids in 10 years. That’s a whole school district for some people.”

The board must give final approval to the bond proposal by Aug. 19 to allow a November election.