ExxonMobil drives Spring, Klein ISD growth

When the school year started in August, children of ExxonMobil employees at the new Springwoods Village campus took their first classes at Spring and Klein ISDs. But as the campus nears completion next year and residential developers consume the surrounding available land, both school districts have yet to experience the full anticipated effect of the developments.

"[Superintendent] Dr. [Jim] Cain mentioned to me that he likens the growth starting now and into the near future to what happened in the '70s in Klein when we [grew] from 2,000 students and developers came in, and the district just exploded with growth," said Judy Rimato, communications director for Klein ISD. "He sees it as the second big, big wave of growth."

Driving residential growth

As many as 2,000 employees are already working within ExxonMobil's 386-acre campus within Springwoods Village, said David Eglinton, upstream media relations manager for ExxonMobil. Eglinton could not confirm whether employees were moving to homes nearby, but multiple developers claim interest is strong from ExxonMobil employees.

"We get people weekly coming in from both companies [ExxonMobil and Southwestern Energy] to look, and [we] do have several people who have purchased who are connected to Exxon[Mobil]," said Karen Travelstead, sales director for Sullivan Brothers builders and the Harper Woods development in Springwoods Village.

Travelstead said families are already living within the 88-home development with 10 home sales completed. However, the subdivision has not seen much interest from families with school-age children.

About half of Springwoods Village's residential development will be within SISD and half will be within KISD, with Klein receiving more of the single-family projects, SISD Chief Financial Officer Christine Porter said. Porter said the district anticipates 1,000 new students from single-family homes and 300 from multifamily development in Springwoods Village in the next 10 years.

Although Porter said the district has seen new students from The Belvedere apartments in Springwoods Village, it is unknown if the students are children of ExxonMobil employees.

"We haven't seen any huge increase based on our initial enrollment projections," Porter said. "We have seen some kids coming from [The Belvedere], but we haven't seen a great increase yet."

Jason Cohen, leasing manager for The Belvedere, said 140 units of the 342-unit complex have been completed thus far. Cohen said the complex was expected to be about 13–14 percent occupied by the end of August, and some leased apartments would include familieswith children.

The apartment complex has seen interest from relocating ExxonMobil employeesfrom Fairfax, Virginia, he said.

"Our inquiries are everything from new graduates with ExxonMobil to full families relocating," Cohen said. "Once the Grand Parkway opens [by the end of 2015], it will really open the floodgates. [The Grand Parkway] will bring everybody to this side of town."

Rimato said KISD's demographer—Population and Survey Analysts—estimates the district will begin seeing single-family and multifamily homes in Springwoods Village within the district by the 2018–19 school year.

"What that translates to in kids, though, will be dependent on exactly what [the developers] build in there and what the mix of multifamily to single-family is and what the prices of those [homes] are," said Robert Robertson, associate superintendent for facilities.

However, the ExxonMobil campus and surrounding developments are already affecting enrollment, Rimato and Robertson said. Subdivisions such as Auburn Lakes and Sawmill Ranch continue to build out in the area while construction continues on McKenzie Park and other subdivisions on the district's north side.

"In the past it's been huge, large tracks of land," Robertson said. "We're seeing tracts as small as five acres being developed into a subdivision [these days]. Things that we previously thought were [not going to be developed] or would be developed way out in the future, those are popping up all over the place."

Enrollment effects

Enrollment in Spring and Klein ISDs has already seen a boost in recent years due to growth in the region, but Springwoods Village and new developments in the surrounding area could lead to even more students than anticipated.

SISD could see as many as 200 new students from Springwoods Village alone in the next two years, and enrollment should increase to more than 40,000 students by 2023, Porter said. Students within Springwoods Village are zoned to Northgate Crossing Elementary, Twin Creeks middle and Spring high schools. She said the district will need schools soon to accommodate additional growth in the region.

"We're in the process of our new superintendent working through our strategic vision and planning," Porter said. "I'm hoping within two years or so, we're strongly considering a bond authorization. We need to ensure this is something the community will support."

Although the projects funded by the bond referendum are unknown, she said it would likely fund at least one middle school and one elementary school. Springwoods Village developer Coventry Development Corporation set aside land for an elementary school within the master-planned community, while a middle school site is available next to Northgate Crossing Elementary.

It is unknown whether the bond referendum would include a high school, Porter said. However, the district will require a fourth comprehensive high school by the time SISD reaches its maximum number of students, which will likely take more than 10 years.

Spring may hold a bond election in the next 18 months to two years, but KISD continues its plans to hold its next bond election in May. Robertson said the bond referendum could include an elementary school, middle school, high school and an early childhood pre-K center.

The district will receive a new demographic study in October, Robertson said, which could lead KISD to consider another elementary school in the bond package.

The district expects to add another 1,500 students to its peak enrollment this year. KISD Chief Financial Officer Thomas Petrek said the district continues to grow about 3 percent per year, but with the growth they are experiencing, that number could increase to 4 percent or5 percent in the next few years.

Increasing tax bases

Despite more than half of the estimated residential development in Springwoods Village being located within KISD, Porter said as much as 95 percent of the commercial development is located in Spring's boundaries.

ExxonMobil considers the campus to be 50 percent completed, Porter said, but it has already contributed more than $500 million to Spring's taxable value. She said the campus could provide more than $1 billion in value to the district upon its completion not counting the value of other Springwoods Village developments.

Although almost none of the commercial development from Springwoods Village is within KISD's boundaries and most residential development is years away from construction, Robertson and Petrek said the district's tax base also benefits from the overall growth in the region.

"The ExxonMobil complex—as more and more people go to that complex and start working—we're going to see the demand for residential housing in our district increase," Petrek said.

Rising taxable values may have already helped the districts lower tax rates as SISD has proposed a 3-cent decrease from last year's rate and KISD has proposed a 4-cent decrease. The districts will vote on the official tax rates in October.

With both districts anticipating bond referendums in the next two years, the increased taxable value could help balance costs from rising maintenance and operations budgets.

"If we continue to grow, I'm hoping I can use the growth to offset the costs of the bond and not have to add pennies," Porter said. "The growth is going to help balance the bond authorization."



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