Growth may force Hutto ISD to reopen closed campus


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and Photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Posted on October 16, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 16 at 6:01 PM

HUTTO, Texas -- Last year the slow economy and state budget cuts forced the Hutto ISD to shut down an elementary school. Now, the area is booming, and the district faces the expensive prospect of re-opening the campus to reduce overcrowding.

At Hutto's Texan Cafe, Jennifer Huff stays busy dishing up delicious pies of all kinds. She knows how fast the Hutto Independent School District is growing. 

“Since my daughter goes to the middle school, and they've moved the fifth graders there, she talks about how it's more crowded, and the bus is more crowded,” Huff said.

Now the district faces another major growth spurt and the reopening of Veterans Hill Elementary. 

A new development was what convinced the school district to build and open the school in 2008, but after the housing market crashed and massive state budget cuts, Hutto ISD was forced to shut down the school more than a year ago.

However another building boom in that development started a few months ago, catching the district off guard. More than 3,000 homes are planned, along with town homes and apartments.

On Sept. 1, Hutto voters approved a property tax increase that would give the district more money.  Hutto ISD had hoped to use that money to rebuild its general fund and rehire laid off elementary school staff.

“The additional $3.2 million that we're getting from our tax election that just passed, if we are forced to reopen Veterans Hill, it's going to come from that money,” said Emily Grobe, the spokesperson for Hutto ISD. “Reopening it just for the staff alone, the overhead staff, not counting your classroom teachers, will be in excess of a million dollars.”

Right now there are more than 5,700 students enrolled in Hutto ISD. The district estimates it will have more than 7,700 by 2014. That means tough financial decisions must be made.

“We don't have the capacity to do another bond election,” Grobe said. “We can't afford it. We don't have enough money to pay it back.”

While the new homes will contribute some taxes to the district, Hutto ISD says it won't be enough, and that there needs to be more commercial growth to help take the tax burden off homeowners. 

The district plans to make a final decision about whether to reopen Veterans Hill Elementary within the next few months. It says in addition to reopening the campus, it may have to build another school.