Northwest Independent School District officials have squeezed every last drop from its sponge of financial resources. However, due to growth and needs as observed by a long-range planning committee, it may be time to soak the sponge in a bowl of water – bond water, if you will.
Since 2008 – the date of the last bond election – the district has been able to absorb its rapid growth through building additions and using leftover funds from past bonds.
However, based on a projected growth of 5,800 students by 2016-2017, the district will deplete those resources. At the request of the committee, the board Monday called a $255 million capital bond election for the Nov. 6 uniform election.
A bulk of the bond would fund the district’s third high school ($136 million), a sixth middle school ($66 million) and an elementary school expansion ($10 million).
It also includes technology and safety/security updates ($25 million), major building component replacements like HVAC systems, flooring and roofing ($10 million each) and program enhancement for math, science and environmental studies ($8 million).
“Eighty-five percent of this bond is a provision for student growth,” said Dave Edstrom of Trophy Club, a member of the long-range planning committee. “The other two items are important capital items to keep us on our path to success … replacement for things wearing out … and improvements where the need is greatest and opportunity is the highest.”
Taxpayers would see an interest-and-sinking rate increase of 7.75 cents (from 33.5 cents to 41.25 cents per $100 valuation). The impact for a home valued at $100,000 would be $77.50 annually or $6.46 monthly.
“This plan is what we see as the bare-bones plan to provide the means for the projected additional 4,000 students we’ll see by 2016-2017,” said Dennis McCreary, assistant superintendent for facilities, planning and construction. “Growth has been absorbed in existing buildings up to this point.”
The committee has exhausted all of the available resources to avoid a bond election. In October 2011, it recommended increasing the elementary school optimal capacity from 650 to 850 by adding classrooms, a music room, an art room and gym and cafeteria space to Granger, Roanoke and Love elementary schools.
However, an additional middle and high school would be needed to accommodate the growth as it promotes through grades.
According to McCreary, demographic projections revealed that both Northwest and Byron Nelson High schools will exceed optimal capacity by 2015-2016.
A high school normally requires approximately 18 months for planning and three years for construction, but the district has used savings from the 2008 bond to design the school, complete a significant portion of the roadway to access it and begin coordinating easement and planning through the city of Fort Worth.
McCreary said the district used savings from the 2008 bond to allow the delay of a bond program to fund high school No. 3 as long as possible. Doing so has reduced the construction time to two years.
Pending passing of the bond, the high school would be completed by 2015; the middle school by 2016. Both will be built on property owned by the district near Schluter Elementary School in Haslet, just off U.S. 81/287 near Willow Springs and Blue Mound.
“History is a good predictor of the future,” Edstrom said. ” … each of those major capital bond programs (managed by McCreary and his staff) were on time or ahead of schedule and on budget or under budget … You can feel comfortable that this recommendation from the long-range planning committee reflects the best demographic information available and a demographic forecast history by the district demographer that has been within a handful of students every year in spite of significant unknowns in a rapidly growing area.
“It also reflects the construction forecast accuracy of district staff,” he continued. “And it includes the survey of the residents and hours of review and recommendations of a representative group of residents from every part of the district.”
Thirty-seven citizens and 10 staff members serve on the committee, which has met 11 times in the past 21 months with an attendance of 19 to 28 members per meeting.
Early voting is Oct. 22 and Nov. 2. To register, visit www.votexas.org/register_to_vote.html. Voter registration must be processed at least 30 days prior to an election.
EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER
The board also discussed establishing an emergency operations center in the administration building to support and manage the district’s response to an emergency including inclement weather.
“We are preparing for what we hope will never happen,” said Gary Gindt, assistant superintendent for administrative services.
The center would be established in a secure location connected to generators that could power its operation over several days in case of an outage.
An emergency management team would meet there to organize resources and coordinate all response and recovery actions during an emergency. In the center, the team would collect, gather and analyze data; make decisions that protect life and property; maintain continuity within the scope of applicable laws; and communicate decisions to all concerned agencies, Gindt said.
The $171,144 one-time expense would be funded through reserve funds. The cost includes security vests and training for $18,319; wireless phones and headsets and electronic equipment for $106,100; and a portable radio system for $10,000.
In other news, the board:
- will hold a public hearing on a tax rate of $1.375 per $100 valuation for the 2012-2013 fiscal year at the Aug. 27 school board meeting. The called bond election will not affect the upcoming year’s tax rate. “We will maintain our current rate,” Rue said.
- discussed selecting Fidelity Security Life Insurance (Arbor Benefit Group) as the district’s stop loss insurance provider and Smith and Associates as its employee benefits consultant.
- opted not to endorse a candidate for the Texas Association of School Boards Board of Directors.