With less than a week left in the election season, Keller school district officials are focusing their efforts in educating residents and urging them to vote.
Keller school’s $169.5 million bond would build three new schools, renovate and expand South Keller Intermediate School to become a career training center, renovate and add on to Keller High School, construct classroom additions at three other campuses and upgrade security and technology.
“I think we’re much more likely to get the true wishes of the community if we get a lot of folks out,” said Superintendent Randy Reid.
Keller school district is running a “4ward the Facts” campaign to encourage residents to get informed about the bond, tell four friends and go to the polls.
Never miss a local story.
If approved, the Keller schools bond would not raise the tax rate, already at the 50 cent maximum for bond debt. The district is able to raise additional funds at the current rate because of increasing tax values, refinancing debt at lower interest rates and paying off bonds early.
In answer to critics who say Keller carries too much debt, officials point to the district’s rapid growth.
Beverly Dixon, a Keller parent and a member of the bond committee, said, “No district in Tarrant County has the same level of debt, but no other district had to build 22 campuses in 12 years.”
Enrollment in the Keller school district has doubled since 2000 and more than tripled since 1994 to almost 34,000.
Reid said that Keller schools’ outstanding debt would still be below the Texas Education Agency’s guidelines if the bond were approved. The TEA recommends that principal debt not exceed 10 percent of taxable values. The Keller district has about $12 billion in taxable value and would have $826 million in debt if the bond is approved, or about 7 percent.
While the district’s tax rate has remained the same for the last four years, tax values have gone up, especially in the last year.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Reid said. “People want their values to go up when they sell, but they don’t want to pay more in taxes. We need to look at the school district as an investment in the community as a whole. A lot of our students come back and live in the community. We’re creating a better future for ourselves.”
Dixon also talked about the bond as an investment for the future.
“People are coming here for the community and for the school district,” she said. “We’re supporting our community. Our children are our future.”
Focus on facts
While the new schools will help handle enrollment growth and the career and technical education center will help prepare students for the 21st century job market, a few other bond items appealed to Dixon, she said.
The $23.5 million renovation and addition at Keller High School would eliminate portable classrooms, widen hallways in the oldest part of the building, expand the cafeteria, upgrade science labs and renovate the bathrooms.
“As a parent, I don’t want my child to have a disadvantage because she is going to the oldest high school, not the newest,” Dixon said.
She also likes the capacity to tweak feeder patterns and make them more pure. Her children attend Willis Lane Elementary, where about half the kids later go to Central and half go to Keller.
Pure feeder patterns not only allow friends to stay together but also help teachers better assist students as they progress through the system and strengthen athletic and fine art programs, Dixon said.
Both Dixon and Reid said that a lot of misinformation has been circulating during the campaign.
Contrary to any rumors, Reid does not own any part of a construction firm.
There are no plans to use bond money to change Keller High’s Indian mascot and enrollment there should not exceed 3,000 students with feeder pattern tweaks.
The bond’s technology money would go to replace old servers and boost wireless Internet capacity, not buy iPads.
“Only one side is required by law to tell the truth,” Reid said. “People need to make sure they’re getting valid information and not accepting something that is wildly inaccurate.”
So far, the Keller school bond is drawing strong numbers in early voting. Over the first seven days, 9,603 people voted in the bond election, according to Tarrant County Elections.