Keller bond committee hands off $169.5 million proposal

07/22/2014 11:06 AM

07/22/2014 11:07 AM

Keller school district officials unveiled a $169.5 million potential bond package July 17 at the final meeting of the bond advisory committee. Now it’s up to trustees to decide next month if they want to call a November bond election.

In order to be on the November ballot, a bond election must by called by Aug. 18. If approved by voters, the bond would not raise the tax rate, already at the 50 cent maximum for capital improvement debt. The proposed amount is close to the maximum of what the Keller school district can raise at the current rate.

The committee met for five months to hammer out the details of a possible bond issue that addresses the gaps in Keller’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, helps balance enrollment across the district and provides more consistent feeder patterns. The group started out with a list of about $300 million in potential items, but officials knew they couldn’t address them all in this bond.

“We could do a bit more this time under the current rate, but we knew we couldn’t do everything,” said Superintendent Randy Reid.

Officials plan to address most of the other needs—primarily renovations at older buildings—in a future bond.

The projects included in the current proposal are:

$37.8 million in renovations and additions at South Keller Intermediate School to turn it into a career and technical education (CTE) center serving students from all four KISD high schools

$40.5 million for a new fifth- through eighth-grade campus on the southwest side of the district

$23.5 million for renovations and an addition at Keller High School

$20.8 million for a new elementary school on property the district already owns southwest of Basswood Boulevard and Interstate 35W

$13.2 million for a second early learning center

$12.1 million in additions at Hillwood Middle School and Parkwood Hill Intermediate School.

The plan would turn Indian Springs Middle School into a fifth- through eighth-grade campus. To keep the numbers manageable, the plan would send Liberty Elementary students to Bear Creek Intermediate and Keller Middle schools and Whitley Road Elementary students to Parkwood Hill Intermediate and Hillwood Middle schools. Willis Lane Elementary students would go to Keller High instead of being split between Keller and Central high schools.

To balance enrollment west of US 377, Freedom Elementary students would be entirely in the Central High School feeder pattern instead of being split between Central and Timber Creek. Bluebonnet Elementary students would go to Chisholm Trail Intermediate and Fossil Hill Middle schools instead of Parkwood Hill and Hillwood.

Enrollment would peak at Keller High and at Timber Creek High School at around 3,000; Fossil Ridge would peak around 2,600 and Central at about 2,500. If the bond were to fail, officials would likely need to adjust feeder patterns anyway because Timber Creek would otherwise peak close to 3,400.

The budget includes about 1 percent a month for construction inflation. Hudson Huff, director of planning and construction, estimates the current inflation rate in the region as a little below 1 percent but wants to plan conservatively. The cost per square foot on educational buildings is going up in north Texas because of the recent passage of a number of large bonds, including a $663 million bond passed in May by Arlington voters. Fort Worth voters approved $490 million worth of school bonds last fall.

Birdville district officials are considering a November bond of a similar size to the one proposed for Keller schools. A May 2013 Birdville ISD bond issue was rejected by voters.

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