Correction: The original article incorrectly stated the total bond amount was $660 million. This article has been updated with the correct bond amount.
The Conroe ISD board of trustees will propose a $683.8 million bond in November as the first of a two-part proposition with no tax rate increase.
At its July 29 workshop, the board reviewed a draft of a $660 million Proposition A and $23.8 million Proposition B. Superintendent Curtis Null presented a draft of both propositions. The largest items on Proposition A are Conroe High School’s Master Plan, a new junior high in the Caney Creek feeder zone and general campus renovations. Proposition B is only one item—adding turf to athletic fields.
“We feel like the needs are met here [in the bond],” Null said. “We would not put forward a plan that did not put us in position to be in great shape moving forward today and in the next five years.”
Changes in the plan
Null said in meeting with community members, many said a May bond was too expensive, too complicated and its benefits and importance were not expressed clearly. In order to reduce the bond amount, proposed projects—such as the Teacher Training Center, Jett Center work and the Conroe High School ninth-grade campus—were all removed.
“We are addressing a lot of the needs,” Null said. “You’re seeing a decrease here, but every department has signed off on the fact that the immediate needs are being met.”
The custodial and maintenance facility and Hauke building conversion will now be paid for with the capital maintenance fund. Null also said the creation of a capital maintenance fund at the board’s July 16 meeting to manage general maintenance items will help bring in a net savings of $36 million. Because the bond is a five-year bond, not the district’s normal four-year bond, Null said a new elementary campus was added to address growth and pre-K with the additional year.
The updated bond comes after a long wait following the failure of an $807 million May bond. The bond earned 6,945 votes in favor and 8,314 votes against, or 45.51% and 54.49%, respectively.
Null said adding astroturf was a major point of contention with the former bond, as some saw it as a luxury. Trustee Ray Sanders said by splitting the bond, it will allow voters to be specific with their support.
“If there are strong opinions both ways when you separate it out, … whoever’s got the people that will come and vote, that’s who decides,” Sanders said.
Board President Datren Williams said the bond seemed to be made to add no increase to the tax rate, not to meet the needs of the district, which Null said was not the case. Specifically, Williams said the Conroe High School ninth-grade campus is one of the greatest needs of the district. Trustee Scott Kidd suggested the astroturf and the technology project could be dropped in favor of the more necessary ninth-grade campus.
Trustee John Husbands said with the growth of the district, adding space for students needs to be a top priority, and the district cannot rely on short-term solutions, such as portable school rooms or redistricting.
“I absolutely don’t want to rain on y’all’s hard work,” Husbands said. “But when you tell me that school is going to be bigger than what it’s supposed to be, … let’s cut something else.”
Ramifications of failure
If the bond fails, Null said rezoning is an option, though it would be incredibly disruptive.
“Education for every child in this district will be affected,” Null said. “And the ability of every teacher in this district to teach will be affected.”
Deputy Superintendent Chris Hines presented plans for the future of the district if the bond fails or succeeds. Either way, he said the district has needs—such as campus maintenance, new portable buildings and buses—that total $25.2 million.
With the opening of Stockton Junior High School in August 2020, the district will rezone attendance areas, affecting Peet and Washington junior high schools. Hines also said the district is working on solutions for overcrowding at Ride and Glen Loch elementary schools, which will likely involve other schools based in The Woodlands.
Many other zones and schools will reach capacity in the next four years, including Grangerland Intermediate School; Moorhead and York junior high schools; and Stewart, Giesinger, Snyder, Broadway, Creighton, Austin, Bush and Lamar elementary schools.
Hines presented several draft maps for potential rezoning, which can be viewed here. But he and Null emphasized this plan was not recommended and was not in the best interest of the students.
The board will have a public hearing Aug. 6 where citizens can give their opinion on the proposed 2019-20 budget, tax rate and bond. The board has until Aug. 19 to finalize the bond proposal.