Fort Bend ISD staff have culled the bond shortfall by more than 50% since notifying the board of trustees of the gap in February.

However, staff and trustees might have to make some "hard choices" in the coming months to bridge the remaining $73.8 million gap, including deciding whether to delay projects or propose another bond, FBISD officials said.

Two-minute impact

Among the eight major projects from the May 2023 bond, FBISD staff has reduced the shortfall completely on the Briargate and Mission Bend elementary rebuilds, district officials said.

While both projects are still over their initial budgeted amounts by a combined $9.2 million, the overrun will be covered by bond contingency funds, according to agenda documents. The overruns on the remaining six major projects, as of the May update, include:
  • Clements High School rebuild: $23.7 million
  • Ferndell Hendry Elementary School renovation and expansion: $2.5 million
  • Middle School No. 16: $3.4 million
  • Elementary School No. 55: $11.3 million
  • Aquatic practice facility: $4.5 million
  • Transportation facility: $1.3 million
District officials will now work to decrease the bond another $55.6 million across the six major projects and $27.4 million for renovations, according to the agenda.

Staff has estimates for about 75% of major facility construction projects and about 50% of renovation projects, meaning district officials should soon know the solidified shortfall amount, FBISD Director of Design and Construction Daniel Bankhead said.

“We’re starting to get a real picture of where we are in terms of budget and budget challenges,” he said.

The details

Meanwhile, four of the bond projects are under construction, with eight projects in the procurement stage of bidding or contracting, and 24 projects in the design or construction documents stage, Bankhead said.

“We’re continuing to make good progress in executing the bond program,” Bankhead said.

Quote of note

Although staff has made strides on reducing the bond shortfall, trustee David Hamilton said progress has slowed, with the overrun decreasing $3.5 million since the April update.

“One of the key promises we made to the community when it comes to this bond was the price tag,” he said. “So I think we need to go through a process of figuring out whether some of the projects need to be cut or we want to go back to the community for more money. So I guess those are our two choices. ... We are in the position of having to make hard choices.”

The backstory

FBISD staff initially notified trustees Feb. 5 the $1.26 billion bond program would face a $132.6 million shortfall, with district officials, at the time, crediting unexpected inflationary pressures and rising material and labor costs.

Officials later said the initial estimate was too low, with the actual bond overrun reaching $163.2 million.

However, an internal investigation released in late April from Rogers, Morris and Grover, a contractor for the board, found the shortfall was primarily caused by administration leaders not adjusting major project costs for inflation when the bond proposal was pushed from the November 2022 election to May 2023.

Next steps

Trustee Kristin Tassin, who was sworn into office at the May 13 meeting, asked district staff to prepare a list of underutilized schools and their proximity to new schools outlined in the bond. She said she didn't want "the community to freak out," but she wanted be prepared to have "tough conversations" if needed.