With a price tag of $118.3 million, New Braunfels ISD will ask voters to approve the largest bond in its history Nov. 6.
“As one of the oldest school districts in the state of Texas, we’ve got some facilities that portions of them are 95 years old,” NBISD Superintendent Randy Moczygemba said.
Enrollment spikes have hit NBISD the hardest in recent years. So far for the 2018-19 school year, Moczygemba said the district has seen an increase of 148 students and that two new kindergarten teachers had to be added a few weeks before the school year started. He added that NBISD saw an all-time high population increase of more than 300 students in 2017-18, with fast-paced growth expected to continue.
“I’ve got three campuses in particular where their attendance zones are in the major construction zones of homes right now,” Moczygemba said.
Potential Property tax impact
NBISD’s most recent bond packages in 2010 and 2015 received more than 70 percent of voter approval and did not result in a property tax increase. If the 2018 bond is passed, voters could be subjected to a projected 3 cent increase for the district’s interest & sinking tax rate, but it is also possible that the rate will remain unchanged depending on incoming property tax revenue.
“On a bond what you do is you try to project worst-case scenario,” Moczygemba said. “… So it potentially could be up to 3 cents, but it also potentially could be zero.”
If passed, the largest portion of the bond—$83 million—will be used to fund the construction of a new elementary and middle school, but some opponents of the bond feel the funding would be better spent constructing a new high school.
“I think (a new high school) should be the priority of the district at this point,” said Christy Austin, who has three children who attend NBISD. “I don’t see anything in the bond on making the existing high school work as it grows,” she said, citing that parking at the campus is already an issue.
Officials say the 2018 bond positions the district to open a second high school in seven to 10 years, contingent on the student growth rate and the passage of another bond. Moving the New Braunfels Middle School students to a new campus will allow the district to expand the existing middle school into a high school campus, which is the district’s long-term plan.
Additionally, Moczygemba said the district would have to cut programs if it splits into two high schools too soon, but voters such as Austin say they would like to see more data surrounding that issue.
“I know for sports there are lot of kids who don’t get the opportunity to participate because it’s too big,” she said “… Tell us then what you wouldn’t be able to offer and then let us make our decision based on that.”
Austin also calls into question the $6.6 million of bond funding that would be allocated for security measures such as adding card readers and ballistic glass.
“Obviously I want my kids to be safe in school, but where is the data that any of this stuff actually has or will deter a shooter?” Austin said. “I can only think of one instance where the shooter wasn’t a student of the school, so how are these things preventing a student from committing a school shooting?”
Austin said while she supports certain aspects of the bond such as facility upgrades, she feels the items addressed in the bond are too diverse.
“The problem is you can vote for all of it or none of it,” she said.
Considering the alternative
If the bond does not pass, NBISD must consider alternative solutions to accommodate growth.
“If the bond fails we will start to become portable building villages overnight,” Moczygemba said.
Although portable buildings can offer short-term solutions, NBISD School Board President Sherry Harrison said they often remain in place longer than intended because of statewide funding challenges. She added that it costs around $30,000 to incorporate plumbing and electricity to a portable building, “and you don’t get that money back,” she said.
Additionally, portable buildings would have to be sprinkled throughout the district and would not necessarily be placed on the same property where a school stands.
Without the bond, certain technology and transportation upgrades will not be possible, or the funding will have to come from other sources.
“We’ve got some fund balance we will use to make it work,” Moczygemba said. “We won’t get all the new buses we really need. We’ll have to tape together some of the older ones to keep them running.”
NBISD officials note that educating the community is one of the greatest challenges faced when going out for a bond.
NBISD alumnus Joe Castilleja helped form the Unicorn Action Political Action Committee earlier this year to help garner support.
“I was born and raised here, and I was educated here,” Castilleja said. “I know what education did for me, and I want everybody else to have that opportunity.”
NBISD will also offer educational sessions leading up to the bond election, and the community can get more information at www.nbisdbond.com.
Moczygemba said it is likely the district will ask the community for more bond funding no later than 2022.
“With growth if you’re not planning that far out, you’re behind the eight ball,” he said.