HALLSVILLE — Thanks to a recent drop in federal interest rates, Hallsville ISD has increased its proposed bond by $5 million, to a total of $55 million, and Superintendent Jeff Collum said voters will still see a tax decrease.

“We originally told you we could get a $50 million bond without raising taxes,” Collum said during a Thursday community input meeting about the bond proposal. “Well, now thanks to the federal interest rate bottoming out in the past couple of weeks, our finance people came back to us and said we can add $5 million to that and still not raise the tax rate at all.”

In fact, thanks to an influx of state funding to school districts as part of the recently passed Texas House Bill 3, Hallsville ISD tax payers will see a $0.07 decrease per $100 home valuation in their tax rate, whether the bond passes on Nov. 5 or not.

The district will see its maintenance and operations tax rate reduced from $1.04 to $0.97. The district’s interest and sinking (debt) tax rate will remain steady at $0.33, making a total $1.30 tax rate, down from $1.37 last year, per $100 of home value.

“I’m not saying your tax rates won’t go up,” Collum said. “The district doesn’t control your property values. If your property values go up, your tax rate will go up, but property values going up is a good thing.

“But, the school district tax rate will not increase with or without the bond — it will reduce seven cents.”

Collum said with the extra $5 million in the proposed bond, the district can address some pressing maintenance needs on its facilities and purchase much needed new school buses.

The total proposed bond amount would be about $54.9 million, not to exceed $55 million, and would include about $29.7 million for a new “West” elementary school campus on land the district already owns near Page Road and Loop 281 in the Longview city limits but Hallsville ISD district.

The bond proposal also includes about $13.8 million for a new high school auditorium that was originally included on the plans of the district’s 2007 bond that constructed the new Hallsville High School but was later scrapped due to a lack of money remaining. The district’s campuses currently use the auditorium at Hallsville Junior High School.

Next on the proposal is about $900,000 for security updates and aesthetic renovations at Hallsville Junior High School.

Security updates would include new doors on the campus building, a two-tiered secure entry vestibule similar to other campuses and cameras throughout the building. Aesthetic updates would include paint, carpet and other restorations.

Next up in the proposal is about $5.2 million allocated for maintenance and transportation upgrades and needs, which includes five new school buses, parking lot repairs at East Elementary School and Hallsville Junior High School, about $2.4 million in roof repairs at East Elementary School, Hallsville Junior High School, the football field house and concession stands and facility upgrades at East Elementary and HVAC repairs.

The proposal also includes about $300,000 for new band equipment that Collum said the district has not been able to afford to make room for in the annual budget. The district approved about $100,000 in this year’s budget for band equipment upgrade but Collum said that wasn’t near enough to cover the full need.

The newest additions to the bond proposal, which total about $5 million, include about $1.1 million for additional junior high upgrades to classrooms, bathrooms and hallways, about $1 million in additional parking lot repairs to campuses in the district, about $250,000 each to additional transportation needs and CTE/Ag shop updates, and about $2.4 million to UIL fields and facility upgrades.

Collum said the UIL fields and facility upgrades could include new turf at the baseball and softball fields, repairs to the fieldhouse and more.

Feedback so far on the bond proposal has been positive, the superintendent said, through an online survey on the district’s website at www.hisd.com/bond.

“So far, we’ve had 643 responses to the $50 million bond proposal package and now we’d like everyone to fill out a survey about the newest $55 million proposal,” Collum said. “Of the responses we’ve had so far, 61 percent of the respondents have not been employees and 80 percent of them have children or grandchildren at the district.”

The survey results so far show that about 86 percent of those surveyed strongly agree or are somewhat in favor of a new “West” elementary campus, 86 percent felt the same about a new high school auditorium, 94 percent supported the junior high upgrades, 95 percent supported the maintenance and transportation proposals, 81 percent supported the new band equipment and overall, about 85 percent were OK with the bond amount.

Questions on Thursday from the about three dozen attendees ranged from traffic issues at the new proposed campus, to maintenance issues of the new proposed facilities down the road.

One attendee questioned the district’s plunge into more debt when the district still owes about $55 million on its 2007 bond, but part of the financial plan for the district includes refinancing that debt.

The district is also looking to move about $3 million of its debt from the maintenance and operations side to its interest and sinking side to free up about $650,000 a year that the district could use for its needs.

For more information about the proposed bond, a breakdown of its proposals and to complete the online survey, visit www.hisd.com/bond.

The district’s deadline to put the bond on an election ballot is Aug. 19, with early voting running Oct. 21 through Nov. 1 and election day voting on Nov. 5.

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 7.