School board looking at $312 million package
The Denton school board tonight will consider calling a Nov. 5 bond election.
District leaders are recommending the board call a $312 million bond election for construction, facilities renovation, land acquisition, equipment for school buildings and new buses.
Projects proposed by the district’s 2013 Bond Citizens’ Advisory Committee, a group established in March, total more than $329.56 million.
The projects include construction of a fourth high school along the U.S. Highway 380 corridor; a 23rd and 24th elementary school; an eighth middle school; a ninth-grade addition at Guyer High School; renovations at 17 existing campuses; energy conservation improvements; and land acquisition.
According to documents, the district could put more than $17.6 million in savings from the 2007 bond project toward the 2013 bond referendum to reduce costs.
District officials say the bond package “addresses growth, facility improvements and energy conservation.” In the last six years, district officials report enrollment has increased by nearly 6,000 students or 28 percent.
School officials project enrollment for the 2013-14 year will total 26,677 and the number of students attending school within the district is expected to grow by 4,760 in the next five years.
“Obviously, we’re in a high-growth area, and this package is really trying to address those growth needs,” said Tim Crouch, a committee co-chairman. “We think we’ve come up with some ways of addressing those needs over the course of five to six years.”
Crouch said the proposal includes a 1 cent property tax increase. According to district officials, residents in district boundaries are currently taxed at 49 cents per $100 valuation to pay off the district’s bond indebtedness. The maximum rate for bond debt is 50 cents per $100 valuation.
District officials project homeowners with a $150,000 home would see an annual tax increase of $15, owners of a $100,000 home would see a $10 increase and individuals with a $300,000 home would pay $30 more in taxes annually.
Growth in property values, more so than the tax-rate increase, would help the district pay off the debt, Crouch said.
The more than 30-member advisory committee first presented recommendations for a proposed bond election to the board in June. The group met several times throughout the spring to evaluate district needs for the next 10 years and to study energy efficiency, “green schools” and sustainable features.
In the spring, the advisory committee received reports on the district’s student population growth and what’s projected for the next 10 years; Denton’s bond capacity and debt ratio; pricing/cost estimates and building timelines; a breakdown of the district’s utility usage; and facility assessments — all of which factored into the proposal presented to the board in June.
“I appreciate the work they’ve done,” said Charles Stafford, school board president. “They’ve thoroughly researched it. I agree with their recommendation, mostly. I think it’s good solid work and stuff that we need to do.”
Stafford added that the sooner the district could start new construction projects, the more economical it will be for the district. He said he foresees costs increasing.
“The district’s growing, and we have to meet the needs of the children,” Stafford said. “I’m glad we’re growing. It’s just part of the work that goes along with accommodating more people.”
Tonight’s school board meeting begins at 6 and will take place at the Dennis E. Stephens Central Administration Building, 1307 N. Locust St.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.