Hutto ISD Board of Trustees await summer construction, legislation, finances

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify a bond proposal and the timeline for Kerley Elementary School.

With only a few months left in Hutto ISD’s academic calendar, the district has construction projects, legislative bills and financial plans on the table after summer vacation begins.

The Hutto ISD Board of Trustees met Thursday, March 21 to discuss these items as well as staffing, operations, taxes and more.

Statewide school finance

During a legislative update, Hutto ISD superintendent Celina Estrada Thomas reviewed bills in the Texas House of Representatives likely to impact the district. Estrada Thomas discussed H.B. 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty, which she said would put nine billion dollars toward public school finance, six billion toward school systems and nearly three billion toward property tax relief.

“The reduction of four cents, I think would be significant for our taxpayers,” Estrada Thomas said.

Estrada Thomas said the reduction would be especially helpful for the district in light of Hutto ISD’s proposed $194.4 million bond proposition on the May 2019 ballot.

After a video conference with Rep. James Talarico earlier in the day, Estrada Thomas said the bill is likely to warrant debate as H.B. 3 does not lay out a mandatory pay raise for teachers. She said the bill is more for the use of local district decision-making.

“We appreciate, obviously, the local control,” Estrada Thomas said. “We would do well by our teachers by taking care of them first, but we also want to be able to take care of the employees as well.”

The bill must be approved by May 27, Estrada Thomas said, and it would go into effect Sept. 1.

Kerley Elementary update

Henry Gideon, assistant superintendent of operations, shared progress on Benjamin “Doc” Kerley Elementary School, which has been under construction for the past year. He said the school is on track to open this fall. Kerley will be Hutto ISD’s seventh elementary school.

Estrada Thomas said the 32 positions needed for Kerley Elementary School will be filled by existing staff.

Hutto ISD budget

The plan for Kerley Elementary School’s staff was presented just before the finance outlook, in which Estrada Thomas explained that Hutto ISD is currently planning with no additional money as staffing projects put the district around $850,000 over budget.

Estrada Thomas said Hutto ISD is planning to use new funding from anticipated changes in the school finance system to increase teacher, bus driver and operations staff.

“Whatever new money comes in has to go, first and foremost, to our teachers for salary increases and adjustments,” Estrada Thomas said.

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