Fort Worth trustees cut bond package to less than $500 million

Posted Monday, Aug. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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School officials have pared a possible Nov. 5 bond package to three propositions that will total about $490 million if voters approve them all.

Fort Worth trustees on Monday decided against asking voters to spend $56.5 million for a multipurpose events center and $13 million to install field turf at 11 high school athletic fields.

But added to the list of projects were classroom additions at Paschal High School, McLean Sixth Grade Center and Tanglewood Elementary School to handle overcrowding.

Administrators, bond consultants and trustees worked over the weekend and Monday to finalize the plan before meeting in an evening work session.

The plans announced Monday are the result of an intense three weeks of revisions after consultants from AECOM on July 29 unveiled a list of projects that totaled $785 million. The figure was then cut to $777 million.

Trustees plan a Friday vote on whether to call an election for Nov. 5. By law, they must decide by Aug. 26, which is also the first day of classes. If the election is called, the district will hold community meetings in September and October.

“The community will still have their input,” said board President Christene Moss. “There could still be changes of what is in the bond, but we have come up with the figure.

Kristabel Lopez, vice president of AECOM, on Monday outlined three propositions that voters could consider separately. After two hours of discussion, the board came to a consensus on the proposals.

They are:

•  A $386.4 million ‘base proposition’ that includes a new high school in Benbrook, classroom additions, kitchen/dining room projects, security and technology improvements, universal pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds, building new fieldhouses at 13 high schools and renovations to some career technology programs and specialized Gold Seal Programs of Choice.

The proposal includes a 20 classroom addition at Paschal that would accommodate 500 students, an eight classroom addition at McLean Sixth to handle 200 students and 14 classrooms at Tanglewood that would handle 300 students.

•  Spending $73.3 million to build two campuses for grades six through 12, one for a performing and fine arts academy and another for a science, technology, engineering and math academy.

•  $30 million for non-construction projects such as new buses and maintenance trucks, student uniforms and instruments.

Officials are working to finalize projected tax rate implications.

During the work session, trustees made adjustments to the packages and district officials will calculate new projections before a Friday meeting, said Deputy Superintendent Hank Johnson.

The first proposal would add about 1 cent to the tax rate, Johnson said. That would cost $10 more per year for a $115,599 home with a $15,000 homestead exemption, the value of an average home in the district.

The current tax rate is $1.322, with $1.04 for operations and 28 cents for debt repayment.

Fort Worth schools Superintendent Walter Dansby said the first package is focused on items that are “essential to students in the classroom.”

“It has the majority of the essential items to really advance our student achievement, to move forward in this district,” Dansby said.

Consultants had recommended including a new science and technology academy and renovations to career and technology programs in the second package. But trustees said they felt they were important enough to include in the base package.

Trustee Ann Sutherland told her colleagues that despite previously saying that she would not vote for a package that raises taxes, she “could support” it if the tax rate increase is held to 1 cent.

“It is evident to me that we really need additional space,” she said. “This proposal has carved the tax increase to the absolute minimum that will provide the classrooms we need for our growing student population.”

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

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