Year long path for Fort Bend ISD to arrive at potential November bond
By Betsy Dolan
It has taken over a year of work and district restructuring by Fort Bend ISD to get to the point where they are preparing to ask voters to support a $333.4 million bond in November.
Superintendent Charles Dupre outlined the path the district has taken in the last year in a Board of Trustees workshop July 14.
“We want our community to know that we are serious about managing their money in the best way possible”, Dupre said. “We also want them to know that we are serious about addressing the district’s growth in a way that is pro-active but also prudent”.
It looks increasingly likely that the Board will call for the bond election at their August board meeting. It could include:
• $279.8 million in construction
• $65.7 million for technology infrastructure upgrades
• $34 million for security and safety
• $15.7 million for transportation
• $18.4 million for land
• $19.2 million for athletics, white fleet vehicle replacements, energy conservation & bond support.
The bond would help pay for Phase 1 of Fort Bend ISD’s Capital Plan, a compilation of the Facilities Master Plan, the Safety and Security Plan and the Technology Plan, a process that started in January of 2013.
“The Capital Plan is not a bond plan”, Dupre said. “We’ve taken projects and divided them into three phases with each phase designed to be done over a period of time. We’ll fund some of Phase 1 with a bond. Phase 2 will be funded with a bond in another 3-4 years. Phase 3 would be a bond in 6-9 years.”
By far the bulk of the Phase 1 spending will come from construction and land costs. Fort Bend ISD says they will need four new elementary schools in the next three years but two of them would be paid for with bond funds from 2007.
The district also calls for spending over $66 million on technology infrastructure, including deployment of a wireless network.
“We struggle with antiquated networking equipment and antiquated servers”, Dupre said. “We are not delighted to fund some of these things. But we are in such a deficit with technology that we need to catch up”.
While Dupre acknowledged that over half of the district’s computers are 6-7 years old, he understands the community’s concern about funding short term expenditures with a long term bond and is looking to pay for technology replacements out of the capital budget.
Dupre said the 1999 and 2003 bond programs have been closed out.
“There are unauthorized bonds from 2007 that are dedicated for an elementary school and a middle school and some buses with $12 million in smaller projects that we are trying to push through and finish up”, Dupre said.
Fort Bend ISD is ready to begin an extensive boundary revamp that could also impact where bond funds are spent and where new schools are built.
“It is important to build on this momentum. We have spent the last year planning and we don’t want to lose steam”, Dupre said.
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