Round Rock ISD trustees hint at potential for future May bond based on 'critical needs'

As Round Rock ISD trustees viewed future growth projections, some became concerned at a report that signaled as many as 28 schools could reach if not exceed capacity within the next 10 years.

"I would just state the obvious, that we need to get out ahead of [the growth]," trustee Steve Math said. "We heard about some of the deterioration going on in the physical facilities. It is not getting better, it is getting worse."

Following this analysis of impending district growth, trustees faced a related topic, the need for a future bond to support a growing student population, which demographics firm Templeton Demographics projects will result in a student body of 52,464 students by the 2027-28 school year.

Trustees, for the most part, agreed that a smaller-scale bond focusing only on critical needs, in comparison to the failed 2017 bond, which totaled close to $600 million across three proposals, would be the best option.

Trustee Mason Moses said this critical need prioritization must be paired with a capacity within RRISD's current tax rate.

"I would like to think about what is the capacity within our current tax rate as far as what we could raise without having to raise the rate," Moses said.

Compounding the urgency of the issue is a compressed timeline to call a bond for a May election. The district will close for the holidays at the end of December and the beginning of January, following the Dec. 21. board meeting.

RRISD CFO Randy Staats said a district must be prepared to call a bond six weeks before the election, giving the district roughly five weeks to identify projects should trustees want a May election. This would give RRISD a rough timeline of calling a bond by Feb. 9, Staats said.

Moses acknowledged the fact that the district's "hands were tied by state law," but said if RRISD waits until November, there would be new challenges that would arise that could delay critically needed projects even further.

Trustees Suzi David and Nikki Gonzales agreed, saying the board and district should work hard in the few weeks available to see if a bond would be viable to call for May 2018.

Superintendent Steve Flores mentioned the tight timeframe would also have to include adequate time to convince district voters of a need for a bond.

"I am not waiving a white flag, or a yellow flag or a red flag, I am just saying let’s be very deliberate and concrete in what we do so we have a successful passage of the next bond," Flores said.

The board will continue discussions on the matter at the upcoming Dec. 21 meeting. Trustees emphasized the need to define "critical need" so staff could prepare the list of actual projects to be included on the proposed bond. This step, along with communication of what would be included on a bond, would need to take place prior to an election.