“The south is really, really expanding. With the development of the Grand Parkway [in 2016], we are imagining that those areas in that portion of the district will continue to grow,” Director of Communications Staci Stanfield said.
In August, the TISD board of trustees unanimously approved the bond proposal, which includes plans for two new schools, campus renovations, new facilities, and additional technology and buses. The bond is not expected to require a property tax rate increase, district officials said.
TISD last approved a bond in 2013, which totaled $160 million and funded four new schools and improvements.
Planning for growth
Stanfield said the 2017 bond referendum is based on district needs in accordance with enrollment projections. The district could pursue up to a $305 million referendum without affecting the tax rate, she said. However, the district could not provide the estimated cost of each proposed project as of press time.
“We’ve talked a lot that this is a needs-based bond, so the components that they really were looking to propose in this bond referendum really helped develop the amount of the bond,” Stanfield said.
The board of trustees appointed an 18-member facility planning steering committee to meet from March to May—with additional district employees, parents and residents in attendance, committee Chairman Rob Hauck said.
“That’s what everything here was about was looking at the next five years,” he said. “Our job was simply to take the information we had, look over the next five years, get input from a number of stakeholders and provide [the board] with information.”
Although the northeastern and southern areas of the district are growing most rapidly, Stanfield said projects funded by the 2013 bond—such as the construction of Creekside Park Junior High School and Creekview Elementary School—provided additional capacity to handle growth in northeastern TISD.
According to June 2016 district projections, Willow Wood Junior High School—located in the Northpointe area—is projected to exceed capacity during the 2018-19 school year. Wildwood Elementary School, also located in southern TISD, is projected to exceed capacity in the 2019-20 school year.
“Those are the areas where if voters approve this bond referendum, it’s planned for a new elementary school down south to relieve Wildwood Elementary and also a new junior high campus to relieve Willow Wood Junior High,” Stanfield said.
The bond also includes plans for an expansion to Tomball Memorial High School, as the campus is expected to exceed capacity during the 2019-20 school year, according to district data.
As the district grows, TISD also plans to add more than 20 buses for new bus routes, district officials said.
Additionally, the bond includes funds for a natatorium at Tomball Memorial High School, an agriculture project barn and auditorium renovations at Tomball High School, turf additions to baseball and softball fields, land acquisition, instructional technology and a new district-wide football stadium as well.
Stanfield said the new football stadium would provide seating for up to 10,000 guests. The existing district stadium on Quinn Road, however, would remain should a new stadium be built.
TISD’s enrollment grew more than 32 percent between 2010-11 and 2015-16, according to the Fast Growth School Coalition, an Austin-based advocacy group for growing school districts. To be considered a fast-growth district like TISD, enrollment must increase more than 10 percent in five years, Executive Director Guy Sconzo said.
“We like to call the fast-growth districts ‘destination districts,’” he said. “It’s clearly where people want to move to and where they want their children to attend school. Tomball absolutely fits that description.”
Stanfield said she believes families often choose to move to the Tomball area because of the school district’s commitment to student achievement.
“Tomball ISD is a highly regarded public school system, and we maintain a reputation for excellence,” she said. “And parents are aware of that. They do their homework, and they do their research when they’re selecting a community they would like to raise their children [in].”
The district expects to enroll more than 20,000 students during the 2026-27 school year, based on residential developments slated for the area, according to a January 2017 demographics report by Templeton Demographics.
Enrollment in the southern portion of the district is expected to grow as developments—such as Rosehill Reserve, Oakcrest North, Cumberland Creek, Lakes at Northpointe and Enclave at Northpointe—emerge, according to the report.
In total, TISD features more than 30,000 acres of undeveloped land and averages more than 1,000 new homes per year since 2012, the report said.
“Over 7,000 lots exist in planned developments in TISD, which could sustain current growth patterns for seven-10 years,” the report said.
Assessing the tax rate
As a result of increasing development and property values, Stanfield said the district does not expect the bond referendum to affect the district’s interest and sinking fund tax rate. Although the district expects the state to recapture more than $3 million of its property tax revenue this fiscal year, she said recapture payments are not tied to I&S revenue, which is used to repay district debt.
“We took [recapture] into consideration, and we anticipate no impact on the I&S tax rate with the status quo as it is now,” she said. “It will continue to repay the bond debt.”
The I&S rate is 30 cents per $100 valuation, while the maintenance and operations rate is $1.04 per $100 valuation for FY 2017-18. District officials said the district has maintained or lowered its tax rate while pursuing $350 million in bonds over the past 10 years.
Sconzo said districts look to bonds to finance new facilities, as the state provides just 7 percent of funding for facilities—a decrease from about 45 percent of funding in the early 2000s.
“[A bond referendum] is absolutely by far the most common means of funding facilities and other capital costs, like school buses and technology,” he said.
As the bond is intended to address pressing needs within TISD, the district will begin accessing bond funds for construction immediately, should voters approve the referendum, Stanfield said.
“We are excited about the growth we are experiencing, and we continue to monitor enrollment projections as we plan for the future,” Superintendent Martha Salazar-Zamora said. “We are thankful that our board of trustees approved for Tomball ISD to call this bond referendum.”