Humble ISD has several compelling reasons why the school board approved a $575 million school bond for the May 5 ballot.

First, the district is fast growing, projected to grow by 1,000 students per year, meaning about 30 percent growth through the year 2025. Multiple campuses are at maximum capacity or over capacity. Bond money is used for infrastructure improvement and cannot be used for operating costs. Humble ISD has several compelling reasons why the school board approved a $575 million school bond for the May 5 ballot. First, the district is fast growing, projected to grow by 1,000 students per year, meaning about 30 percent growth through the year 2025. Multiple campuses are at maximum capacity or over capacity. Bond money is used for infrastructure improvement and cannot be used for operating costs.

It has been 10 years since the last bond election; the 2008 $245 million bond was primarily used to purchase land and build new schools. It has been 10 years since the last bond election; the 2008 $245 million bond was primarily used to purchase land and build new schools.

The way the State of Texas operates has a direct impact on school districts. Over the last two decades, the state has provided less and less funding for district operating budgets, leaving school bonds as the only option for communities to improve their schools.The way the State of Texas operates has a direct impact on school districts. Over the last two decades, the state has provided less and less funding for district operating budgets, leaving school bonds as the only option for communities to improve their schools.

With the vote on the $575 million bond fast approaching, the question on the minds of some is: After Harvey, can the community afford such a bond?With the vote on the $575 million bond fast approaching, the question on the minds of some is: After Harvey, can the community afford such a bond?

TAX RATES

Back in November 2017, board president Angela Conrad announced that a tax rate increase would not be necessary to fund the 2018 bond, if the district were to have one. At the time, the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee (CBAC) was reviewing the proposed bond items to determine if a bond package was necessary. Conrad said the tax rate of $1.52 per $100 valuation would be kept for 2018 and that the board hoped it could be maintained until 2023. Damage from Harvey was just starting to shape up, and the board and superintendent decided to keep the flat tax rate to be sensitive to the situation in the community.Back in November 2017, board president Angela Conrad announced that a tax rate increase would not be necessary to fund the 2018 bond, if the district were to have one. At the time, the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee (CBAC) was reviewing the proposed bond items to determine if a bond package was necessary. Conrad said the tax rate of $1.52 per $100 valuation would be kept for 2018 and that the board hoped it could be maintained until 2023. Damage from Harvey was just starting to shape up, and the board and superintendent decided to keep the flat tax rate to be sensitive to the situation in the community.

With the current schedule for debt retirement, Humble ISD could have lowered the tax rate. However, with the post-Harvey uncertainty and the need for the bond and additional capital investment, the district really could not function properly with a lower tax rate. With the current schedule for debt retirement, Humble ISD could have lowered the tax rate. However, with the post-Harvey uncertainty and the need for the bond and additional capital investment, the district really could not function properly with a lower tax rate.

TAX BASE 

How compliant is the community in paying property taxes? At the October 2017 school board meeting, the accounting firm of Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins and Mott provided their annual report on delinquent property taxes. The 2016-2017 report stated that of the $220 million tax base, $217 million had been collected.

One of the firm’s roles is to continue to work on collecting the remaining $3 million. However, last year’s report only went through the end of June, before Harvey hit. What will the post-Harvey delinquent tax situation look like? The 2017-2018 report won’t be out until this summer, and perhaps won’t be presented to the board of trustees until the fall, months after the May 5 election.One of the firm’s roles is to continue to work on collecting the remaining $3 million. However, last year’s report only went through the end of June, before Harvey hit. What will the post-Harvey delinquent tax situation look like? The 2017-2018 report won’t be out until this summer, and perhaps won’t be presented to the board of trustees until the fall, months after the May 5 election.

PROPERTY VALUES

In December 2017, The Tribune asked several local Realtors, including RE/MAX’s Joan Imperato, about the storm’s effects on property values. Imperato has lived in the Kingwood community for many years – a community she described as “strong and cohesive.” Imperato has great faith that the community will recover, but said in December that it was way too early to tell what effect the storm has had on property values.In December 2017, The Tribune asked several local Realtors, including RE/MAX’s Joan Imperato, about the storm’s effects on property values. Imperato has lived in the Kingwood community for many years – a community she described as “strong and cohesive.” Imperato has great faith that the community will recover, but said in December that it was way too early to tell what effect the storm has had on property values.

The Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) will release its new appraisal values in early to mid-April. The chief appraiser has already said that HCAD expects property values in Harris County to be flat – with a total tax base about the same as in 2017.The Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) will release its new appraisal values in early to mid-April. The chief appraiser has already said that HCAD expects property values in Harris County to be flat – with a total tax base about the same as in 2017.

Humble ISD’s tax base is approximately $16 billion. Chief Financial Officer Mike Seale said that the district has seen about a five percent growth rate annually. Humble ISD’s tax base is approximately $16 billion. Chief Financial Officer Mike Seale said that the district has seen about a five percent growth rate annually.

On April 10, board president Angela Conrad said that the board now has sufficient information from HCAD, district insurers and other state and local officials, so the board voted unanimously to reappraise property values in order to better address the district’s estimated $100 million losses due to Harvey. The process will take several months, and will not be complete prior to the bond election on May 5.On April 10, board president Angela Conrad said that the board now has sufficient information from HCAD, district insurers and other state and local officials, so the board voted unanimously to reappraise property values in order to better address the district’s estimated $100 million losses due to Harvey. The process will take several months, and will not be complete prior to the bond election on May 5.

DEBT

Prior to convening the bond committee, Seale calculated the district’s debt capacity, meaning the bond amount that could be financed without increasing the district’s debt-service tax rate. That amount was determined to be $600 million, but the board of trustees only approved a $575 million bond. Prior to convening the bond committee, Seale calculated the district’s debt capacity, meaning the bond amount that could be financed without increasing the district’s debt-service tax rate. That amount was determined to be $600 million, but the board of trustees only approved a $575 million bond.

Of the $1.52 tax rate for Humble ISD, $1.17 is dedicated to maintenance and operations (M and O).Of the $1.52 tax rate for Humble ISD, $1.17 is dedicated to maintenance and operations (M and O).

The remaining 0.35 cents of the $1.52 tax rate covers the Interest and Sinking (I and S) bond portion, which is directly related to district debt. The state has capped all districts from exceeding a .50 cent I and S portion, and they don’t step in to help district shortfalls in that area.The remaining 0.35 cents of the $1.52 tax rate covers the Interest and Sinking (I and S) bond portion, which is directly related to district debt. The state has capped all districts from exceeding a .50 cent I and S portion, and they don’t step in to help district shortfalls in that area.

The I and S portion of the tax rate is what the district uses to cover its annual debt payment. The district’s current debt is approaching $1 billion: approximately $600 million in principal and around $227 million in interest, for a total debt of $827 million, according to figures presented to the CBAC.The I and S portion of the tax rate is what the district uses to cover its annual debt payment. The district’s current debt is approaching $1 billion: approximately $600 million in principal and around $227 million in interest, for a total debt of $827 million, according to figures presented to the CBAC.

If property values go up, the district has breathing room – an expanded ability to make their debt payments. Conversely, lower property values mean less money available to the district, and that puts pressure on the district to pay their debt. These factors must be considered in the post-Harvey climate.

The district does have good bond ratings; they report that only three percent of all Texas schools have higher bond ratings than Humble ISD. Furthermore, Seale assured the CBAC that Humble ISD would not sell bonds until the value growth and payments toward the existing debt allowed the district to do so without raising the debt-service tax rate.The district does have good bond ratings; they report that only three percent of all Texas schools have higher bond ratings than Humble ISD. Furthermore, Seale assured the CBAC that Humble ISD would not sell bonds until the value growth and payments toward the existing debt allowed the district to do so without raising the debt-service tax rate.

If the bond passes on the May 5 ballot, it does not automatically mean the district is incurring more debt; it just means that the community is giving the board approval for $575 million worth of bonds for capital improvements.If the bond passes on the May 5 ballot, it does not automatically mean the district is incurring more debt; it just means that the community is giving the board approval for $575 million worth of bonds for capital improvements.

When voting on May 5, taxpayers need to remember that voting for the bond means two things. First, it means giving the school board authority to issue $575 million in bonds. Second, it means that voters approve expansion of the total debt owed by citizens. On top of the $827 million currently owed, the new bonds would likely increase the total debt load to over $1 billion.When voting on May 5, taxpayers need to remember that voting for the bond means two things. First, it means giving the school board authority to issue $575 million in bonds. Second, it means that voters approve expansion of the total debt owed by citizens. On top of the $827 million currently owed, the new bonds would likely increase the total debt load to over $1 billion.

With the City of Humble canceling its May 5 election, the lone item on the May 5 ballot will be the Humble ISD bond. The three candidates for city council will retain their seats as no one else filed to run for office.With the City of Humble canceling its May 5 election, the lone item on the May 5 ballot will be the Humble ISD bond. The three candidates for city council will retain their seats as no one else filed to run for office.
At the March 20 school board meeting, the board approved a $35,000 motion to approve the Order Appointing Election Officials. The district and the City of Humble normally share costs for these elections; it is unclear at this time whether the district will incur any additional costs with the cancellation by the City of Humble.

Early voting begins April 23. The following locations were posted at the March 20 board meeting for early voting: Early voting begins April 23. The following locations were posted at the March 20 board meeting for early voting: 

- Humble ISD Administration Bldg., 20200 Eastway Village Dr., Humble
- Creekwood Middle School, 3603 W. Lake Houston Pkwy., Kingwood
- Humble City Hall, 114 W. Higgins St.,

HumbleVoting day is May 5. Regular voting locations are as follows:

- Humble City Hall
- Creekwood Middle School 
- North Belt Elementary School, 8105 North Belt Dr., Humble
- Oaks Elementary, 5858 Upper Lake Dr., Humble
- Foster Elementary, 1800 Trailwood Village Dr., Kingwood 
- Kingwood Middle School, 2407 Pine Terrace, Kingwood
- Rosewood Funeral Home, 17404 W. Lake Houston Pkwy., Atascocita
The central counting station will be at the Humble ISD Administration Building.

Jacqueline Havelka
Author: Jacqueline HavelkaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am a rocket scientist turned writer. I worked at Lockheed Martin-Johnson Space Center for many years managing experiments on the Space Station and Shuttle, and I now own my own firm, Inform Scientific, specializing in technical and medical writing and research program management. I am a contributing correspondent to The Tribune, a Kingwood resident for 12 years, and proud mom to two Aggie sons.

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