Fort Bend ISD board to consider calling $494.5M bond next month
By Betsy Dolan
Fort Bend ISD’s original plan for a $351.2 million dollar bond proposal that would have paid for the first of three phases in the district’s Capital Plan, has been scrapped for a more aggressive $494.5 million dollar plan that uses only two phases.
The changes, recommended by the district’s community-based Bond Oversight Committee, were revealed during the July 21 regular board meeting.
The BOC wanted a more aggressive approach based on the growth projections in the district but wanted to know how much the district could afford to spend without raising taxes, said Chief Financial Officer Steve Bassett.
The primary focus areas of the bond are construction, safety and security, transportation and technology.
Projections indicate that Fort Bend ISD will add almost 14,000 students by 2023 which is why construction costs showed the most aggressive change from the original bond measure to the current one. $364.5 million is earmarked for five new elementary schools, a new middle school, elementary classroom additions at Holley, Oyster Creek, Cornerstone, Sugar Mill, Scanlon Oaks, Schiff, Sienna Crossing and Palmer as well as an addition at First Colony Middle School.
$46 million would go toward career and technical education.
The transportation portion was increased to allow for the purchase of more buses as well as bus cameras and GPS.
The technology budget was reduced from $65.5 million in the original proposal to $39.4 million. The proposal calls for a wide area network/backbone refresh and wireless network deployment. Items were removed from the bond proposal after concerns were raised about using bond funds to pay for items with short life spans. The district has plans to pay for those items out of an eventual technology fund.
The safety and security budget remained the same at $30.1 million for security cameras, security vestibules, window film, fencing, generators and emergency communications.
White fleet vehicle replacement and the athletic facility cycle replacement were removed from the bond proposal.
Trustee Kristin Tassin raised concerns about the $46 million dollar price tag on the career and technical center and asked if the district needed to wait to form partnerships between community colleges and the business community before moving ahead.
But Dupre said the CT concept is generating significant interest and waiting five to six years to move forward would not be in the district’s best interest.
“Money in the proposed bond is available for career and technical education. It may not be an actually bricks and mortar facility. It could be implementing programs in every high school, but the money is there for us to dedicate to career and technical education”, Dupre said.
Trustee Jenny Bailey questioned adding a new middle school and proceeding with school additions when school capacities will likely be impacted by the district’s new school boundary plan when it is finalized.
“We know the board’s work on boundaries is going to change things in the next two or three years”, Dupre said. “The important thing is that we don’t have to spend a dime of that money until the trigger is there. It’s an opportunity for us to be pro-active”.
Bassett told the Trustees how it was possible, with a conservative seven percent growth rate, to manage the bond without a tax increase.
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