The Hutto Education Foundation kicked off its fall fundraising campaign this year with nearly $100,000 pledged through a successful fundraising event and a landfill-related award announced this week from Waste Management through Williamson County.
Led by Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison, the Commissioners Court approved $75,000 Tuesday to continue the work of the foundation in 2013.
Former HEF board president and current board member Denise Carrington reported the results of last year’s $70,000 in funding, $45,000 of which went to pay for a state-mandated character education program chosen by the district. The EarlyAct/FirstKnight program was implemented at all elementary and middle school campuses within the Hutto district.
The program is important, Carrington said, because academics and ethics are not always aligned. Last year was the first year of implementation of the program created by Rotary International. In Hutto ISD, four tournaments and 24 knighting ceremonies were held and more than 1,000 students received character medals. Students are asked to complete service projects as well, and Hutto students conducted 12 over the past year.
Hutto ISD data shows the program is working, she said.
“From the 2010-2011 school year to the 2011-2012 school year,” Carrington said, “we had a population increase of 104 students, but with the implementation of this program almost 1,000 discipline incidents less than the year before.”
About $45,000 of this year’s funds will be used to continue the program, she said, and to implement a “Sucessmaker” computer lab initiative that could impact as many as 4,200 students at various levels. The program complements math and reading concepts taught in the classroom.
A county policy allows the school district through the foundation to receive up to 1 percent of the landfill’s solid waste fees collected annually. As part of any award, the county requires the organization to deposit 25 percent, or a minimum of $20,000, into an endowment fund, which HEF has done for the past two years.
This year, the foundation plans to put $26,250 in its endowment, which is managed by the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, and use the remaining $3,750 for administrative costs related to auditing services, Carrington said.
The Williamson County Landfill is within Hutto’s ETJ, and Commissioner Morrison helped draft the agreement by which Hutto receives a percentage of the landfill fees collected each year.
There are at least five accounts related to landfill fees that are to be used for Hutto programs, recreation programs throughout the county, environmental initiatives and more, according to the court. The balance in the two accounts available to the City of Hutto and Hutto ISD before this year’s drawdown was $282,813.20, the county reports.
The City of Hutto also is requesting just over $13,000 for solar trash compactors to be used for special events. Commissioners approved the funding Tuesday, pending finalization of paperwork related to the request.
The Hutto Education Foundation also recently kicked off its fall fundraising campaign with a barbecue at South Fork Ranch in Hutto. HEF supporters have pledged more than $22,000 already this fall, according to President Melanie Rios.
Despite voter approval of the Tax Ratification Election, Rios said the work of the foundation to fill in funding gaps for the district is more important than ever. The Sept. 1 TRE means Hutto ISD will not have to trim an additional $1.3 million next year, but has cut more than $5 million in the past two years.
“With the TRE passing, it’s important that the community understands the mission of the Hutto Education Foundation,” Rios said. “We support programs or grants that wouldn’t normally get funded through traditional tax dollars. Our community has the opportunity to help HEF fund innovative programs that the ISD teachers and or staff know truly will make a difference for their students. However, we need the support of our community to make that happen.”
Teacher grants, scholarships and program funding are provided by the foundation to the school district. HEF provides a conduit for private contributions and grants to benefit the school district.
Anyone who would like to find out more about the foundation’s work, may visit www.huttoeducationfoundation.org.