Fort Bend ISD administrators recommended to the board of trustees Monday breaking down its original $1.7 billion capital plan into two phases for implementation, requiring two bond elections over the next three years.
Staff recommended the board call for a $992.5 million bond referendum in November to address the district’s most urgent needs for the next three years. A second election in 2021 would be necessary to pass a $705.3 million bond to implement the second phase of the capital plan.
Bond funding would be used to support educational programming needs, increase safety and security measures, modernize technology, invest in facilities and address anticipated district growth.
The original capital plan was a six-year framework, FBISD Chief Operations Officer Oscar Perez said. District staff divided the plan based on the priority of deficiencies and urgency of need.
The plan is divided in such a way to allow new construction of facilities to proceed as originally scheduled, Perez said. Upon reviewing the plan, staff was also able to reduce anticipated costs for redundant and unnecessary projects. For example, the proposal for installing metal detectors at schools was removed based on feedback from the FBISD Police Department.
The tax rate and strategy for financing the plan also depend on net taxable property value, said Steven Bassett, chief financial officer for FBISD. Subject to voter approval, a tax rate of $1.35 per $100 taxable value would be needed to support the 2018 bond program, assuming a 5-percent growth in district property values year over year. This would be a 3-cent increase from the current rate of $1.32 per $100 taxable value.
“We were tempered this year with 3 percent [property value growth] because of Hurricane Harvey and such, but I’m optimistic that our growth the next year will be well in excess of 5 percent,” Bassett said.
Trustee Jim Rice said the district’s fund balance would not cover costs of deficiencies, such as large-scale facility replacements and repairs—the costs of which may equal millions of dollars.
“I hope everybody can understand that we really don’t have a way to save money in a growing school district and hire teachers and give teachers the training they need and give them the raises they need and still plan to replace a roof,” Rice said.
Other trustees, including Kristin Tassin and Board President Jason Burdine also expressed support of the two-phase plan.
“We’re trying to make sure whatever we put out there is going to pass because it’s critically important, not just for facilities, but for our kids,” Tassin said. “If it doesn’t pass, it significantly impacts the way we educate children.”
The district is not using the bond to spend extravagantly, Burdine said.
“This is need,” he said. “It’s crucial that we get this bond passed so that we can, not only stay up with our times, but just stay afloat.”