Study of Birdville facilities may lead to third bond election in 5 years

HALTOM CITY -- A study could lead to the Birdville district's third bond package in five years as school trustees try to determine whether to repair, renovate or replace some schools and other buildings.

Architects with HKS, hired by the school district last year to evaluate the condition of Birdville's facilities, have identified $160 million in projects they recommend for high-priority consideration.

The district must determine whether any projects could be covered by the operating budget or explore whether to call a bond referendum for funding.

The HKS report said the school district has aging buildings, some dating to the early 1950s, and officials should discuss replacing nine elementary schools and four middle schools.

On Thursday, school trustees directed administrators to create a timeline for a possible bond election and determine the district's debt capacity. Trustees expect to discuss facilities plans in a March workshop, board President Dolores Webb said.

If trustees go forward with the bond process, the district would create a residents advisory committee to study facilities, prioritize projects and recommend whether to call a bond referendum.

"At some point, it could lead to a bond election, but it is not for the sole purpose of putting together a bond package," said Mark Thomas, a Birdville spokesman.

In 2005, Birdville voters agreed to spend $40 million for technology upgrades and school renovations, but rejected $174 million in bonds. The district came back in 2006 with a pared-down package for $128.6 million, which voters approved.

Voters approved $83.35 million in bonds in 1996, and in 1993 voters OK'd $74.7 million.

In the fall, Birdville completed work on the 2006 bond package, opening a career and technology center, expanding Haltom High School and rebuilding Richland High School.

In other business Thursday, trustees:

Agreed to buy 50 interactive white boards for $964 each. The funding will come from grants and federal funds. School budgets for office equipment will be used to buy floor stands, Bluetooth technology and other equipment.

Tabled discussion on a proposal to equip high school students with laptop computers. The board expects to discuss the matter in a workshop next week, Webb said.

JESSAMY BROWN, 817-390-7326