Tomball ISD calls bond for new schools, renovations

Schools proposed in northeast and south

In response to a surge of growth in the northeast and southern regions of Tomball ISD, the district has called a bond election this month to pay for four new schools and renovations at all existing schools.

The $160 million bond, which will be voted on by residents May 11, would help the district as its student population grows by 3,700 students in the next five years, according to district projections. There are currently 11,700 students in Tomball ISD.

"It's a direct result of one thing: explosive growth," said Huey Kinchen, the district's deputy superintendent. "Where our growth is most prevalent is the northeast portion of our district and in the south. The whole Northpointe area is growing very rapidly. All three of those schools are rapidly approaching capacity. It's not a want; it's a need."

Tomball ISD is the fastest growing school district, based on percentage, among seven counties surrounding Houston, including Harris, Chambers, Galveston, Liberty, Waller, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties, Kinchen said. There are 51 public school districts in those counties.

"A lot of that is being driven by strong business growth," said Ken Odom, a school board member and chairman of a citizen's committee to advocate for the bond. "Exxon is moving into the northeast part of our district, and there's a lot of development in the south part of our district. The influx of population is really the core driver behind our bond."

Renovations

The bond would also fund renovations at all of the district's 12 schools, including new technology, security upgrades and additional school buses, district officials said.

"Every school will benefit from the bond," Kinchen said.

The bond includes renovation projects at Lakewood and Decker Prairie elementary schools to upgrade the front administration areas and the cafeterias.

Timber Creek and Creekside Forest elementary schools would be renovated to move sixth grade from the campuses and alter the schools to a K-5 instead.

In addition, the bond will include money to help with traffic congestion relief at Tomball Junior High School and Northpointe Intermediate.

The bond would provide money for facility improvements district-wide, including upgrades to air conditioning, heating, lighting, roof replacement, paving, and other electrical, mechanical and plumbing projects, district officials said.

Tomball ISD commissioned a 17-member Facility Planning Steering Committee last fall to look at possible improvements to accommodate the growth.

The committee presented its findings at a public forum Jan. 28. The steering committee recommended the bond to the district's Board of Trustees, which unanimously approved the proposal.

"I have every confidence the money raised on this bond is absolutely needed," said Michael Pratt, a Tomball ISD school board member. "Your board is extremely conservative. I have all the confidence our communities will support it. I think our communities will recognize the growth issue."

The new schools, which will cost $110 million, include an elementary and intermediate school in the southern area of the district.

In addition, an elementary and a junior high would be built in The Woodlands to help with growth at area elementary schools and Tomball Junior High. The need for these schools is based on growth projections through the 2018–19 school year.

"We looked critically at the next five years," Kinchen said. "We need to be prepared to meet that growth."

Although Creekside Forest Elementary is the only school exceeding capacity this year, projections show Canyon Pointe Elementary and Northpointe Intermediate school exceeding capacity in 2014, Willow Creek Elementary and Tomball Junior High School in 2015, and Timber Creek campuses in 2016.

The steering committee—which is composed of TISD staff, parents, local business leaders and other district patrons—looked at future developments, number of rooftops and number of lots available for development in determining enrollment at each campus through 2018.

The committee arrived at an estimated total of $168,296,726 for all necessary improvements. In addition to the new schools, the district has set aside $30 million for additions and renovations to existing infrastructure and $28 million for improvements to transportation and technology.

Also in the bond, Tomball ISD is proposing renovations at the district stadium track and the installation of field turf at the stadium. Field turf would also be added at Tomball Memorial High School. The plan includes adding new weight rooms at each junior high school as well.

Other improvements include the installation of security vestibules at the main entrance of campuses that do not already have them. The district also plans to add a second agriculture project barn.

"Tomball ISD has a thriving and growing FAA program," Odom said. "We are expanding our capacity to take in animals so we can make sure everyone can participate in that."

Tax Rate

The district would avoid going over a tax rate of five cents per $100 valuation on the bond, steering committee chair Rick Pritchett said. The average homeowner in the district-based on the average home cost of $100,000-would pay roughly $50 a year in added taxes.

Voters who are over the age of 65 won't have a tax increase.

Tomball ISD said the renovation and construction costs are all estimates at this point and may need to be adjusted after the design process.

The board has a history of spending less than estimated in previous bond elections.

"From a total taxation point of view, TISD has very low taxes, among the lowest in the state," Odom said. "We haven't increased our main operation tax rate in over five years."

The last successful bond election was held in May 2007 for $198 million to fund four new schools and the district's administration building, among other renovations. All the projects were completed within budget, Kinchen said.

"We will not use those [new bond] pennies unless they are needed," he said. "Our goal is to go under. We are a very transparent school district."

The Tomball Chamber of Commerce's board of directors unanimously voted in April to support the bond.

"We are really seeing the fruits of [TISD's] work—people relocating to this area because of education," said Bruce Hillegeist, president of the chamber.

Additional reporting by Shawn Arrajj



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