DALLAS — The trustees of Hutto Independent School District decided to hold a bond election on May 10 seeking $138.4 million for a second high school and two more elementary schools to house a growing enrollment that has been increasing by 20% annually.

The bond referendum will be split in two propositions: one for $128.5 million for the new campuses and another for $9.9 million for a natatorium for swimmers. Some proceeds from the debt will finance land acquisitions for future schools and a seating expansion at the district’s football stadium.

“All the studies presented to the committee indicated these are the needs of the district,” said L.C. Mayberry, chairman of the facility advisory committee.

He said the school district recently began competing in swimming and the natatorium could be a broad-based community-use indoor pool with district events taking precedence.

The district, which is about 20 miles northeast of downtown Austin, currently serves an enrollment of nearly 4,400 in four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Another elementary school and second middle school are expected to open this fall. The student population has doubled since the beginning of the decade and each of the schools operates at overcapacity.

Despite a recent slowdown, officials continue to project 15% to 20% annual enrollment growth for the next few years, pushing the student population to as high as 7,600 by 2010. Some estimates show total enrollment climbing to nearly 21,000 by the start of the school year in 2017.

Standard & Poor’s upgraded its underlying rating on the central Texas district to BBB-plus from BBB ahead of a $44 million issue early last year, citing significant property tax-base growth and a stable financial position despite increased enrollment.

In the upgrade note, analysts labeled Hutto “the fastest growing school district” in Texas.

At the start of the decade, the city of Hutto was home to about 1,250 and now has more than 12,000 residents. Surrounding Williamson County has experienced the population boom as well. The county is now home to about 333,500, which is up 33.4% from nearly 250,000 as of the 2000 Census.

Affordable homes have spurred growth in the area, and completion of a new highway should result in more development, according to analysts.

SAMCO Capital Markets is the financial adviser to the suburban district. Fulbright & Jaworski LLP serves as bond counsel.

Standard & Poor’s analysts said the district’s assessed valuation has more than doubled from $422 million for fiscal 2003 to $976 million for fiscal 2007 with the majority of the growth residential and 1,300 more new homes are under construction.

The rating also reflects a “very high debt burden,” as well as various capital needs to keep pace with growth and a lengthy maturity schedule.

District voters approved an $85.2 million bond package in November 2006. That was exhausted with a $50.2 million sale last November. Yields on the bonds, which were backed by the state’s triple-A rated Permanent School Fund, ranged from 3.51% with a 4% coupon in 2012 to 5.02% with a 5% coupon in 2043. The bonds are callable at par in 2016.

The school district carries an underlying rating of Baa2 from Moody’s Investors Service.

 


 

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