Dansby outlines three options for Fort Worth school bond package

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Fort Worth school Superintendent Walter Dansby told trustees that there are $585 million worth of “essential” projects to include in a potential November bond program.

Dansby outlined three proposed bond options:

• A $585 million option includes building a new high school in Benbrook, classroom additions, safety, security and technology improvements and universal pre-kindergarten for all four years.

• A $667.5 million option adds the cost of building a performing and fine arts campus and nonconstruction projects such as new buses and maintenance trucks, student uniforms and instruments.

• A $777 million package would include installing athletics projects such as adding practice field turf and building new field houses at all high schools and a multipurpose center.

“We broke the bond program up [by looking] at several scenarios. The first scenario is very essential to the operation of Fort Worth ISD and for student achievement,” Dansby said. “The others [include] enhancements to our system.”

The school board met in a work session Monday to consider which projects could go into a bond package that they hope to take to voters in November.

The work session was the first time trustees publicly discussed potential bond projects since a July 29 meeting when consultants unveiled a list of potential projects that originally totaled $785 million. The revised total is $777 million.

The board has a regularly scheduled meeting tonight. They plan to have another bond workshop Monday.

Trustees plan to vote Aug. 23 about whether to call a bond election for November. The deadline to do so is Aug. 26. If they go forward, the district would host community meetings from Sept. 15 through Oct. 31 to explain the package to taxpayers.

Deputy Superintendent Hank Johnson told trustees that the district has identified ways to lower the potential impact of a tax rate increase from a bond, including expanding implementation of new technology from five to seven years and restructuring current debt and using fund balance savings. Increased projected property values also help keep the tax rate lower.

A $777 million package would result in a $90.72 annual increase in taxes on $100,000 of taxable value, a 9-cent tax rate hike. A $585 million package would increase the tax rate by 5.5 cents or $55.44 per year, and a $667 million package would increase the tax rate by 7 cents or $70.56 per year.

The proposal calls for adding more than 300 classrooms, building pre-kindergarten additions at 14 schools and renovating Benbrook Middle School and Westpark Elementary School into a middle and high school complex.

Trustees had a wide ranging discussion Monday that included clarifications about the proposal, and several board members stressed that the community should have a chance to weigh in on the bond program.

Trustees discussed the need to handle overcrowding at campuses across the district, particularly at Paschal High School and schools that feed into that campus.

Trustee Judy Needham said a top priority must be to get students out of portable buildings and into first-class classrooms. She asked administrators to determine how much it would cost to build additions on all overcrowded campuses.

“If you can’t get all that together in the next couple of weeks, I feel like we should defer this bond for a year,” Needham said.

Dansby said waiting another two or three years for a bond package would put the district further behind as the student population keeps growing. He agreed that administrators could take another look at how to address overcrowding at Paschal and Arlington Heights high schools.

“We have overcrowding all over the school district. We’ve made every effort to address that based on the demographic study and future projections,” Dansby said. “It was really based on the demographer’s study of the area and the population estimates for the Paschal area.”

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326 Twitter: @jessamybrown

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