Welcome from Keith McBurnett
Welcome to Burnet CISD. Located in the Hill Country, Burnet CISD is spread out over 700 square miles and serves 3,100 students in 6 campuses. Burnet CISD has a rich history of excellence in academics and extracurricular activities, and is committed to CRAFTING the FUTURE. That future is as unique as each of our students. For some that means preparing them for college or a trade school, while others it means preparing them to earn a certification or enter the workforce with demonstrable skills. Our students are excelling inside the classroom and outside the classroom. I am proud to be the superintendent of Burnet CISD and to be a member of this wonderful community. You will find that there is a real sense of care and community within the District. If I can be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me.
In order to keep District stakeholders informed, I write a newspaper article on a regular basis and post it on the District's website. You will find the most recent articles below.
May 9, 2018
The District has been working on developing its budget since January and conducted its first budget workshop in March. The next budget workshop is scheduled for June 4. A key data point in developing the District’s budget is property values. Burnet County property value estimates were provided to the District by the Burnet Central Appraisal District on April 25. The District had been working under the conservative assumption of a 5% property value increase for the upcoming school year, but the actual estimate came in higher at 9%.
I want to make clear that Burnet CISD does not determine property values, but it is important to understand that State law requires the Burnet Central Appraisal District to appraise properties at least at 95% percent of market value or else the appraisal district fails the Comptroller ‘s ratio study and the State reduces funding to local schools. The State Comptroller’s ratio study compares sales prices with appraised values set by the county appraisal district. Burnet County was determined to be under the 95% threshold in 2017, and is in a grace period. If Burnet County does not pass the comptroller’s ratio study in the future, Burnet CISD and Marble Falls ISD could both lose millions of dollars in state funding.
The District does set two tax rates each year- Maintenance and Operation (M&O) for day to day operation of the District (salaries, utilities, transportation, etc.) and Interest & Sinking (I&S) to pay off the District's debt related to bond programs. The District's M&O rate is currently $1.04 and is as low as it can be without being penalized by the State. The I&S rate was lowered by a penny in August 2016 and another 3 cents in August 2017 and is currently $0.24. Because of rising property values, the Board of Trustees is projecting to lower the I&S tax rate again in August 2018 and recently approved the early payment of bonds totaling $2,550,000. This early payment of bonds, called Bond Defeasance, is a strategy used to decrease the interest expense paid on the district’s bonds. This specific defeasance saves Burnet CISD over $200,000 in interest payments.
The Board of Trustees is committed to having the lowest possible tax rate while maintaining a commitment to planning for the future, offering the highest quality educational programs and being fiscally responsible while servicing its debt. Approval of the final tax rates will be made when the budget is adopted this August.
The increased property value also means that the property wealth per student in Burnet CISD is projected to reach a threshold defined in law which will result in Burnet CISD being subject to “recapture.” For the first time in the District’s history, Burnet CISD will be sending property taxes generated in Burnet CISD to the State as part of the “Robin Hood” school finance plan. The District is projecting that this recapture payment will be $350,000 for the 2018-2019 school year. These are funds that will not be available to support innovative programs, teacher pay raises or school safety initiatives in Burnet CISD, but will instead be redistributed to other Texas school districts. While some school districts in the State have fallen off the “funding cliff” when they become a “recapture district” the Board of Trustees and administration have been carefully planning for the future, by setting money aside to assist with the projected loss in funding.
The one entity that is benefiting the most from increased property values is the State of Texas. As local property tax collections go up, the amount of state aid to fund education is reduced. This means that the State is contributing a smaller share of funding for Burnet CISD than it has in the past.
Because the State adopts its budget for a biennium, Burnet CISD always plans a two year budget framework so that we are looking ahead for any possible budget challenges like recapture. We take very seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and to plan appropriately.
April 25, 2018
As I shared this past December, the 5-year grant funding the ACE Afterschool Program will expire in July. The District is in the process of applying for Cycle 10 of the grant to fund an additional five years. Because awarding of the grant will not be announced until sometime in July, the District is developing two plans: one assumes BCISD receives the ACE grant and the other assumes BCISD sustains an afterschool program for the 2018-2019 school year with local funding.
If the District is awarded the ACE grant, then parents can expect the same high quality ACE Afterschool Program serving more than 800 students a day. If the District is not awarded the ACE grant, then the District is prepared to offer a new, locally funded afterschool program.
At the April 16 Board Meeting, the BCISD Board of Trustees allocated funds to underwrite a majority of the costs of a non-grant funded afterschool program. This locally funded afterschool program would be offered at all BCISD elementary campuses Monday-Thursday from 3:15-6:15 p.m. The afterschool program will have a new name, but will continue to offer homework help, tutorials and fun, enrichment activities in a safe environment. The three biggest changes with the locally funded afterschool program are:
The enrollment will be limited to 105 students at each elementary campus.
Transportation will not be provided.
A very affordable fee of $20 per month will be required.
In order to plan for the 2018-2019 school year, the District will be hosting an afterschool program registration event in May. Registering in May will secure a spot in the afterschool program for the 2018-2019 school year. More information on the afterschool registration event will be coming out soon, so be watching the District's website and Facebook page.
In addition to allocating funds to support an afterschool program, the Board also voted to take action to save money for taxpayers. On April 16, the Burnet CISD Board of Trustees approved the early payment of bonds totaling $2,550,000. This early payment of bonds, called Bond Defeasance, is a strategy used to decrease the interest expense paid on the District's bonds. This specific defeasance saves Burnet CISD over $200,000 in interest payments. The early payment also lowers the District's future annual debt payments, thus providing flexibility for future tax rates and the ability to address future District facility needs with limited to zero impact of the tax rate.
Finally, I want to wrap up by sharing six words with you- Your Generosity. Our Community. Their Future. These six words capture the mission of the Hill Country Community Foundation (HCCF). The HCCF is a non-profit organization committed to the support of civic, health and educational programs that enrich the lives of citizens in Burnet. The HCCF invests in students and the community by offering a scholarship to EVERY student graduating from Burnet High School or Quest High School that is pursuing post high school education or training.
You can see the Foundation at work on May 17 at 7:00 p.m., as the HCCF will award over $300,000 in scholarships to Burnet and Quest High School students. Since 1983 the HCCF has awarded $4.88 million in scholarships to Burnet graduates. That is an incredible investment in our young people, and a commitment that you don't find in other communities- big or small. If you want to see this community's investment in our future at work, feel free to join us at Burnet High School on May 17- It is a special evening.
April 11, 2018
Last week the Rotary Club of Burnet gave away over $13,000 in community grants to local non-profit organizations and service organizations. As a member of Rotary, I am very proud of its community grants, and it is another reason that you can add to my list of why I love living and working in Burnet. This community gives back to its citizens and there are hundreds of volunteers across the community working to serve people in need. Kudos to Rotary for helping out these organizations and a big thank you to the local non-profits and service organizations that exemplify the Rotary motto of, “Service Above Self.”
About this time each year, I normally would remind readers about the upcoming School Board Elections, but that won’t be happening this year. Due to only one candidate filing in each place for the BCISD School Board Election, the Board of Trustees approved the Order of Cancellation and the Certification of Unopposed Candidates at the March 5 Special Meeting. Incumbents Angela Moore (Place 2) and Robby Robertson (Place 6) and new Board member Ross Behrens (Place 6) will be sworn in at the May 21 Regular School Board Meeting.
At the April 16 Board Meeting, I will have the opportunity to recognize outgoing Board Member Jeff Hullum, a 1978 graduate of Burnet High School, for his outstanding service to Burnet CISD. Mr. Hullum served on the Board from 1998 until 2005 and then again most recently from 2009 until now. There is no doubting Mr. Hullum’s love for Burnet and the Bulldogs. His leadership and contributions to the Board will be greatly missed. As he says, “I take great pride in building and promoting a school system that is the backbone of this city. I want what is best for all students that come through our school system. If I can be a part of this process and help all students along the way, I feel that being on the School Board is the place to do it.”
It is easy to take for granted the outstanding leadership, vision and oversight provided by the Burnet CISD Board of Trustees. As a team, they quietly spend countless hours doing their work on behalf of the staff and students of Burnet CISD. I have a front row seat of watching them work, and having worked with other boards in other districts, I want our community to know how lucky we are to have these men and women serving as school trustees. For this reason, the Burnet CISD Board of Trustees is being nominated for the 2018 Texas Association of School Administrators School Board of the Year Award; a well-deserved honor.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children. Everyone’s participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development. We are lucky in Burnet to have the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center (HCCAC) as a resource to help in preventing child abuse and supporting families that have been victimized by child abuse. To learn more about the HCCAC please go to www.hccac.org.
Finally, this past weekend I completed the nine-month Thompson Executive Leadership Institute Superintendent Academy. The scholarship I received to attend the Academy paid for all academic costs including a field trip to attend leadership development sessions at Columbia University and visits to several New York City schools. During the Academy, I regularly met other superintendents, attended an educational visioning conference and throughout the process was challenged to look at old problems in new ways. It was an outstanding professional development opportunity that has helped me to be a better leader. I appreciate the support from the Board of Trustees to attend the Academy each month, and I look forward to applying what I have learned in the years to come.
March 21, 2018
For the first time in the District’s history, Burnet CISD will be sending property taxes generated in Burnet CISD to the state as part of the “Robin Hood” school finance plan. The District is projecting that this recapture payment will be $350,000 for the 2018-2019 school year. These are funds that will not be available to support innovative programs and initiatives, teacher pay raises or school safety initiatives in Burnet CISD, but will instead be redistributed to other Texas school districts.
Burnet CISD is exploring an upcoming plan to generate additional revenue for the District that won’t be subject to “Robin Hood” while also lowering taxpayers' overall tax rate – it's called a Tax Rate Swap & Drop.
Texas school districts’ tax rates are broken up into two separate rates – an Interest and Sinking (I&S) rate that funds the payment of debt from bonds that are used to build and maintain school buildings, and Maintenance and Operations (M&O) rate that funds everything else including programming, teacher salaries, and utilities. The M&O rate is currently capped at $1.04 per $100 property valuation, but can be raised with the community's approval. This is done through a Tax Ratification Election.
If the community passes a Tax Ratification Election, Burnet CISD could raise the M&O rate by $0.02, but would also be in position to lower the I&S rate by $0.03 due to higher valuations and fiscally responsible refinancing over the years. This would lower the overall tax rate from $1.28 to $1.27, while providing Burnet CISD with $545,000 in additional operating revenue that could not be recaptured by the state though “Robin Hood”. That's more money for your schools while lowering your overall tax rate.
It's a Tax Rate Swap & Drop and you’ll be hearing more in the upcoming months about our budget plans to keep more money in Burnet CISD for the benefit of our students and our community.
February 28, 2018
Any time there is news of a school tragedy, I know it heightens everyone’s concern about the safety of our children while in our schools. I want to reassure you that the safety and security of staff and students has been and will always be the top priority at Burnet CISD.
BCISD has several protocols in place for drills including fire, tornado, bomb threat, lockdowns, and active shooter. We have long been prepared for a school-wide lockdown and active shooter situation. The administrative staff was last trained in active shooter response in the summer of 2017. We work closely with the Burnet and Bertram Police Departments to develop our Emergency Operations Plan, as outlined by the Texas School Safety Center. In addition, we meet with our first responders every year to discuss emergency situations and make adjustments to our plans.
We also have taken thorough measures on campuses to ensure the physical safety and security of staff and students. In addition to routine drills, we have two School Resource Officers located at Burnet campuses and the routine presence of a Bertram Police Officer at Bertram Elementary. Each campus uses the Raptor Visitor Management System that requires all visitors to check-in at the campus office and undergo a screening before entering the building.
All campuses have secure entry ways, and exterior fencing has been added to campuses with multiple buildings. With the new proximity card access control system, exterior doors on all campuses can be locked and unlocked immediately and remotely in the event of emergency. All secondary campuses currently have security camera systems and elementary campuses are in the process of being equipped with security cameras. The security cameras in the District can be viewed remotely by police officers from their patrol vehicles during emergency situations. In addition, all classrooms have telephones to facilitate routine and emergency communication and finally, every campus is equipped with a radio with a panic button that when activated opens a channel directly to the Burnet County dispatch.
One of our greatest challenges during a school emergency is how to manage traffic flow and incoming phone calls from concerned parents and others. Traffic jams and jammed phone lines prevent emergency responders from providing emergency services in a timely manner. Because of this, Hill Country Fellowship (200 Houston Clinton Drive) has been selected as our Parent Information-Reunification Center. In the event of an emergency involving a BCISD campus, please do not come to the school, but go directly to the gymnasium at the south east corner door (facing 281) of Hill Country Fellowship where BCISD staff will provide you with information on how to reconnect with your child. Any time there is an emergency situation, the District will communicate instructions and status via the District’s Facebook page, webpage and School Messenger.
To create an inclusive and safe environment for staff and students all of our campuses have implemented the Start with Hello program. In addition, the District is partnering with Sandy Hook Promise to be the first school district in Texas to implement the Say Something Anonymous Reporting system that allows students and parents to make anonymous reports via an app, telephone or web page. All reports are triaged by a 24/7 crisis call center. We all have a responsibility to say something if we see something or know something.
Finally, this is a good reminder of the importance of our safety procedures and check-in and screening process for all campus visitors. All campus visitors should use only front entrances when visiting our schools.
My commitment to you is that we will continue, as always, to have discussion about how to make our campuses as safe as possible. Crafting the future starts with making sure our students and staff are safe and we all play a role in making that a reality.