Bond issue for new school considered at special meeting

By Becky Brewster

At a special meeting of the Culberson County-Allamoore ISD held on February 11, Scott Reed and Hector de Santiago of Parkhill, Smith and Cooper (PSC), presented two updated site plan options for the proposed facility improvements project.  The estimated cost for each of the proposals has been pared back to $29.5 million.  The direction the CCAISD will take hinges on whether or not the Town of Van Horn will agree to close Fannin Street between West Seventh St. and West Ninth St. Supt. Dalia Benavidez met with the Town Council to discuss this issue, and amid concerns of relocating utility mains, fire protection, and emergency management, the Council tabled consideration of the street closure until further information could be obtained.

The majority of the presentation focused on the financing of the improvements and the impact of the bonds on the local taxpayers.  Presently, the CCAISD maintenance and operations (M&O) costs of $5.05 per building square foot is far higher than the average of the regional peer schools that were used in the comparison.  The higher M&O costs rather than higher debt costs, contribute to the state formula that “recaptures” our local tax dollars and repurposes these funds to other districts.  Enrollment, attendance, and property values also figure in to this formula. According to documents provided by PSC, the District sent approximately 2.5% or $150,000 of the local taxing effort for M&O back to the State as “recapture” in FY 2014-2015.  In FY 2015-2016, it is projected that approximately 33% or $2.9m will be sent back to the State.  The premise is that if the voters pass a $30,000,000 bond issue for facility improvements, the District would retain an estimated $25.7 million over the 25 year life of the bond rather than sending it to the State as recaptured funds.

The calculated tax rate to pay for the bonds ranges from $.4592 to $.4604 per $100 valuation over the 25 year life of the bond. These rates are based on the assumption that the dramatic increase in taxable value due to the oil and gas exploration in the northern part of the County over the last few years will drop in future years.  If the taxable values stay consistent, the impact locally will be much less.  Based on a Tax Rate Impact Table prepared by PSC, an estimated $.45 tax increase will cost the owner of a $75,000 home (less the $25,000 state mandatory homestead exemption) an additional $225.00/year or $18.75/month.  No estimates were prepared for the impact on local businesses, but applying the $.45 tax rate would levy an additional $2250/year or $187/month for each $500,000 in taxable value. Tax rates for homeowners that are 65 years or older will remain the same.

The CCAISD Board of Trustees will meet Monday, February 15 to consider ordering the election for the $30,000,000 bond issue.

In other business, the CCAISD Board members:

• Selected April 29 as the replacement date for the school closure scheduled for the Pope’s visit to Juarez on February 17.

• Approved the ERATE Cycle 19 for 2016-2017.

• Terminated a Finance Contract with Estrada-Hinojosa upon recommendation by Supt. Benavidez.