Fast growth in Northwest ISD drives facilities planning, could mean 2020 bond package

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The Northwest ISD Long-Range Planning Committee is recommending a May bond referendum potentially totaling about $936 million.

This recommendation to the board of trustees came after a months-long discussion involving projected student enrollment, the local housing market, the current economy, departmental needs and existing facilities. The committee reviewed more than 70 potential projects and, based on its prioritization, that was the dollar amount estimated.

It is possible for NISD to issue $1 billion worth of bonds without increasing its current debt service tax rate of $0.45 per $100 valuation, according to notes from the Jan. 9 committee meeting.

This is due to the strong growth of property values in the district, said Tim McClure, assistant superintendent for facilities.

There are several housing and commercial developments planned that will have long-term effects on the future of NISD, committee member Darin Davis said. New job opportunities and new neighborhoods will bring thousands of additional students to the district, he said.


“This will definitely be the largest bond to ask, ever,” he said. “It’s not because we want to ask for it—it’s because we have to.”

ADDRESSING NEEDS

NISD has historically called for bond elections every three to four years to keep up with growth, McClure said. Most recently, NISD passed a $399 million bond program in 2017.

If voters approve the bond package in May, funds would be used to build new schools and expand existing ones.

A 2020 bond program would also include funding for new furniture and equipment; technology updates; flooring and heating, ventilation and air conditioning system replacements; and various facility renovations.

“There were so many immediate needs that we decided to focus only on what must be done for the next 3-4 years of growth,” Davis said in an email.

COMMERCIAL DRIVERS

When Davis first moved to Northwest ISD in the late ‘90s, there were seven campuses for elementary, middle and high school students, he said.

The school district has more than quadrupled that number since then. It operates 31 campuses across 234 square miles, and more will be needed to keep up with growth over the next decade, according to projections.

“The two biggest things are maintaining what we have ... and then, equally as important, is keeping up with the growth and creating classrooms for those who are coming in for those neighborhoods that are being built,” Davis said.

NISD’s location in the metroplex places it in a very strategic position in terms of commercial and housing activities, said Bob Templeton, vice president of consulting firm Templeton Demographics, which provides quarterly reports for NISD.

The developments in AllianceTexas and the corporate presence—including Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Deloitte—along the SH 170 corridor are spurring regional job growth, Templeton said.

Charles Schwab recently announced plans to make its new, 71-acre Westlake campus its company headquarters. Hundreds of employees are expected to move to the new campus in waves from Jan. 13-Feb. 3.

The campus can accommodate more than 6,000 employees, according to builder DPR Construction.

“[Companies are] dropping thousands of people into our area that have families,” said Phelecia Leitch, another long-range planning committee member. “Families need schools, and Northwest is a well-renowned school district in our area.”

HOUSING ACTIVITY

Homebuilders also appear to be paying attention to this growth.

NISD is ranked fourth behind Prosper, Denton and Frisco ISDs in the number of home sales closing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, according to Templeton’s 2019 third quarter report. More than 3,400 vacant lots with roads and utilities are ready for construction, and another 39,929 lots are in the pipeline on top of that.

This includes a major residential development near the intersection of SH 114 and SH 287 in Wise County. In November, real estate company PMB Capital Investments purchased more than 3,400 acres for a 10,000-lot development, featuring “significant commercial space,” according to a news release.

“For us, to put that in perspective, 10,000 homes [supply] enough kids to fill a full feeder pattern of schools,” McClure said. “That’s a high school, two middle schools and six elementary schools.”

While it may take time for builders to deliver these homes, they will eventually affect NISD’s resources, McClure said.•Templeton’s data shows student enrollment climbing from fewer than 15,000 in the 2008-09 school year to 25,000 in the 2019-20 school year. Once the school district reaches build-out, administrators could potentially see more than 100,000 students, McClure said.

NISD’s growth is also part of the natural progression of urbanization, Templeton said. •“Also, roadway improvements have made it more accessible,” he said. “The improvements to [SH] 114 and the continued improvements to I-35 put more of Northwest ISD in that commuter range.”

PLANNING AHEAD

Earlier in the school year, NISD commissioned a survey to gather input on the community’s willingness to support another bond. Preliminary estimates at that time placed the bond package at $700 million.

Results showed residents were about evenly split on the issue in the initial survey. But after participants were presented with additional information, more of them expressed support for a 2020 bond program.

Templeton said that the same thing pushing NISD’s demand for resources can also be used as leverage.

“They are a school district that not only is experiencing housing growth, but they’re also experiencing commercial and retail growth at the same time. ... So, they’re going to be able to look at having bond elections that will likely have a very minimal impact to the tax rate on the homeowner,” Templeton said. “Most districts don’t have that.”

The committee’s recommendation is expected to be presented at the school board’s Jan. 30 meeting. The board has until Feb. 14 to call for a bond referendum to get onto the May ballot.
By Renee Yan
Renee Yan graduated May 2017 from the University of Texas in Arlington with a degree in journalism, joining Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in July.


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