KATY (Covering Katy News)—Voters are being asked to consider approval of a $609 million bond package for the Katy Independent School District to cover construction of six new schools and various renovations of 61 others.
According to the school district, the property tax rate will not increase if the bond passes.
“As a taxpayer myself I can completely understand why people would be concerned about the tax rate,” Lee Crews, Katy Independent School District chief operations officer, said. “We are projecting a no impact, a zero impact on the tax rate for this bond.”
The bond is worth $609 million. Of this, approximately $449 million, or 74%, is for six new schools—one high school, two junior high schools, and three elementary schools. Other items covered, with approximate costs, include:
-Component Replacements $52 million (9%).
-Comprehensive Renovation: $21 million (3%).
-Safety & Security Improvements: $17 million (3%).
-School Expansions: $15 million (3%).
-Technology: $32 million (5%).
-Other (buses, portables, and fuel tanks): $24 million (4%).
Of the 61 schools scheduled for work, the school receiving the most attention will be Fiedler Elementary, 2100 Greenway Village Dr. The school opened in 1993, and would receive comprehensive renovation work estimated at $20.9 million.
On Monday, Crews gave local media a campus tour, highlighting some of the areas that would be renovated. The school would upgrade its electrical and HVAC systems, along with its bathrooms.
The school would also get storage facilities for students, and other physical changes to enhance campus security.
Crews said classrooms learning spaces would be adapted to make them more in line with best practices around the district.
“We’re adapting some of the learning spaces to move them into kind of a 21st Century learning model,” Crews said. “What we’ve found is, the business world would really like us to build collaboration and communication skills with students, and some of the learning spaces that we have in this building are not quite conducive to that. We’ll be looking at designs for buildings and modeling some of the learning spaces put into our new campuses into Fielder Elementary. It really is about equity for our students.”
The district has 77,500 students enrolled right now, with a 100,000-student enrollment projected in the future in the next eight to 10 years. The district has averaged 2,800 new students per year for the last five years, he said.
“We’re constantly growing,” Crews said.
One issue critics have raised is whether it would be wiser to vote no on the bond, in order consider the impact of the recent hurricane to the local tax base and what that would mean regarding enrollment.
Crews said does not believe the flooding is a reason to vote against the bond because the number of students has remained the same.
“I would say our number of students are right in line with projections,” he said. “We did not lose students because of the hurricane. We actually came back with a few more. Every day it looks like our enrollment is going up.”
Some development, such as in Cross Creek and Ellison, were not affected by the hurricane and those areas are growing. The elementary schools are going in the Cross Creek area, Crews said.
Some critics have also questioned the need for a new high school, suggesting that the district instead redraw the attendance zones. The district currently has eight high schools, with the most recent, Paetow, having opened in August.
To this concern, Crews said, the number of seats is very limited.
“I think you’d have to start on the east end of the district and rezone all the way to the west,” Crews said. “I think you’d find that a lot of people are very entrenched in their school environment.”
Crews also said that he thought simply rezoning would be a short-term fix, given the district’s growth.
“If you look at 2,800 (new) students a year, well, that might hold you for a year, but then you’d have to come back and do it again,” he said, adding that several high schools have enrollments above their capacity.
“You have to come in and build new buildings if you’re going to go from 77,500 students to 100,000 students in the next eight to 10 years,” he said.
Lisa Kassman, the district’s executive director of facilities and planning, said the bulk of the construction activities—such as at Fielder Elementary—would take place during the summer months. Some vendors deliver supplies in the spring, she said, and the goal is to have the project ready by the end of July.
For a list of renovations by campus, see the campus renovations page on the Katy ISD website.
Early voting begins Monday, October 23 and runs through Friday, November 3. Polling day is Tuesday, November 7. For a list of polling locations, see the voter information page on the Katy ISD website.
“We feel it’s important for the community’s voice to be heard,” Crews said.