Corrected: Katy ISD weighs bond on November ballot

Katy ISD’s board of trustees received a $609.2 million bond package  July 17 for a November referendum. The proposal contained 35 projects recommended by the 2017 bond committee that would affect 70 facilities around the district.


The deadline to call for a ballot referendum on the proposal is Aug. 21. Further discussion and public comment was expected at the board’s July 24 meeting after press time.


About 71 percent of the bond referendum’s funding would go toward new facilities, and all high-priority projects proposed by KISD staff were added to the bond package. When the committee cemented the proposal June 27, Superintendent Lance Hindt said he was excited about the proposal and that new facilities were needed.


Katy ISD weighs bond on November ballot“The pressures on our kids today, there’s no denying are far greater than what they were when we were in school,” Hindt said. “And why would we add pressure to them, to put them in schools that are overcrowded where they don’t have the opportunities to be involved with whatever function they choose to because the numbers outweigh the chances?”


KISD officials said if approved, the proposed bond package would not require a school district tax rate increase. The tax rate has been $1.5166 per $100 valuation since the 2015-16 school year.


Board President Ashley Vann said although she felt confident about the proposal’s chances, the price tag and low voter turnout in a non-presidential election year could be the biggest barriers to board or voter approval.


“That’s just a feeling that I have,” she said.


Vann said funding for new schools was her biggest priority for the bond package. She also said she was grateful money for upgrades at existing schools were included.


“When schools get—if one high school gets a certain technology upgrade or a certain upgrade of any kind—we make sure that every high school gets that,” Vann said. “It might take a two- or three-year cycle but it’s never—one school doesn’t get something, we all get something.”


Corrected: Katy ISD weighs bond on November ballotKISD officials are wary of public opposition to the package and committee members discussed possible ways to promote and campaign on behalf of the bond to voters. Committee members are expected to act as advocates for the bond, said Michelle Hughes, a neutral committee facilitator from TM Strategy & Design Group.


Vann, committee members and district staff acknowledged lingering frustration in the community over  KISD’s $748 million 2014 bond could dissuade some from voting in favor of the 2017 package. The 2014 bond included Legacy Stadium, which opens in August.


In a May survey of 350 respondents conducted by the district, about 54 percent said they would not vote for a bond package priced between $600 million and $680 million. However, once respondents were told the new bond would not require a KISD tax rate increase, the results shifted to 54 percent in favor of the bond package.


Vann said KISD has considered a ninth high school at least since she was elected to the board in 2014 and that a 10th high school would likely be the district’s last, based on KISD’s 2020 plan. KISD had 72,952 students enrolled in the 2015-16 school year and is projected to have more than 98,000 students by 2026, according to the district.


Hindt said the proposed ninth high school and attached natatorium for $206.1 million is needed to relieve overcrowding and better accommodate district swim competitions.


“[If a] high school is not in the bond, then we are going to have to move kids all around this district,” he said.


The proposal’s total cost could change if the board of trustees votes to send it back to the committee.


 

*Editor's note: The original version of this article mistakenly said 71 percent of the bond would go toward new schools and that the bond committee voted on 55 projects.