Fort Bend ISD to issue green bonds to fund new schools

James C. Neil Elementary School (Submitted photos)

The Fort Bend Independent School District will make history by becoming the first in Texas to issue green bonds, which will finance the environmentally sustainable construction of three new elementary schools.

The district plans to issue a total of $99 million tax-exempt bonds this month, and approximately $52 million of the bonds will be designated as green bonds, part of a $484 million bond package approved by the district’s voters in 2014. The bond issue will be senior managed by Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., LLC (SCSCO) the nation’s top minority- and woman-owned municipal finance firm.

Proceeds from the sale of the green bonds will finance the construction of Donald Leonetti Elementary School in the Sienna Plantation subdivision, James C. Neill Elementary in the Harvest Green subdivision, and James Patterson Elementary in Grand Vista.

Donald Leonetti
Elementary School

Following the approval of the 2014 bond program, the FBISD Board of Trustees adopted its elementary school education specifications, which state that the district’s future elementary schools should be designed to LEED/high-performance standards and obtain LEED certification.

The three new elementary schools opening for the 2017-18 school year will include green features such as building materials with higher levels of recycled content, energy efficient HVAC equipment, and heat reducing features such as light-colored building materials and green space.

“Texas’ population is booming and we need to build new, state-of-the-art schools to continue to provide the highest quality education for our children,” said Keith Richard, managing director and head of the Texas region for SCSCO. “As municipalities plan ahead, it must done in a way that helps protect and preserve our environment for future generations who will benefit from these new schools. With Earth Day coming up, what better time to reflect and act on our commitment to leave a greener, healthier world for our children.”

“As construction of our three schools continues, Fort Bend ISD is excited to issue green bonds and seek new financing opportunities by expanding our investor base as part of our strong commitment to fiscal responsibility,” said FBISD Chief Financial Officer Steve Bassett.

James Patterson
Elementary School

FirstSouthwest, a division of Hilltop Securities Inc. will serve as the financial advisor and Bracewell LLP will serve as the bond counsel to the district. Greenberg Traurig, LLP will serve as underwriters’ counsel.

Green bonds are a new and growing sector of the national municipal bond market, allowing public entities to finance capital construction in a way that supports environmentally responsible investment.

The district will be the first school district in the state to take advantage of the unique financing opportunity, joining the University of Texas and other institutions of higher learning in recent years, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Indiana University, all of whom have issued green bonds to financing LEED certified buildings.

“Our new schools include state-of-the-art energy-saving features that will help us save on operating costs,” said FBISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Dupre. “Issuing these green bonds demonstrates our conservative approach to managing our building program.”

The district currently enrolls 74,500 students on 75 campuses and is expected to increase to 85,000 students by 2026.

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