Fort Bend ISD continues planning for potential 2018 bond program

Fort Bend ISD has canceled all after-school activities for Sept. 19.

Fort Bend ISD has canceled all after-school activities for Sept. 19.

Fort Bend ISD staff is developing a capital plan to implement in the next six years, and it includes recommendations from the district’s facilities, technology and safety and security master plans.

Considering needs for construction, facility and equipment replacement, transportation, and technology, the 2018 capital plan outlines $1.7 billion in potential costs, said Oscar Perez, chief operations officer for FBISD. The board must prioritize these considerations to include in a potential 2018 bond package.

“We understand that we’re going to have to really look hard at this to get to a number that we can all have consensus on,” Perez said. “We are an aging district. We have facilities that are aging, and there is a lot of need out there.”

Between 66-86 facilities require some sort of repair, replacement or upgrade related to roofing, electricity, plumbing and mechanical work, according to meeting documents.

If voters approve the bond, repayment may take 5-30 years depending on the project, said Steven Bassett, chief financial officer of FBISD. Costs for security devices and minor renovations may be repaid in 5-10 years while costs for projects of larger scope—including classroom additions and new school construction—may take up to 30 years to repay.

Whether taxpayers must pay a higher rate depends on the district’s projected property values and market conditions, Bassett said.

“It’s really all about property value growth,” Bassett said. “Once that dollar value is determined in terms of how much the bond is going to be—whether it’s $1.7 billion or $800 million—it all depends on property value growth.”

With the district’s fast-growing pace and mounting needs coupled with state mandates, the bond is necessary to provide quality education to students, trustee Kristin Tassin said.

Trustee Jim Rice said the issue is state funding for public education has been dramatically reduced in recent years, leaving the district to shoulder more of the burden.

“It just shows us we’re on our own,” he said.

As the bond planning process moves forward, the district should consider ways to improve programs and schools to attract more students, which would help the district capture needed funds, trustee Dave Rosenthal.

“In this plan, we’re not building white, marble schools or $100 million football stadiums or anything like that,” Board President Jason Burdine said. “We’re investing money in our children.”

In order for citizens to vote on a bond referendum in November, the district must call for the election by Aug. 20, Bassett said. The last board meeting scheduled that month is Aug. 13.

By Renee Yan
Renee Yan graduated May 2017 from the University of Texas in Arlington with a degree in journalism, joining Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in July.