District officials say $45 million package would address growth
ARGYLE — The Argyle school board has called a $45 million bond election for May 10 for projects including a new middle school, upgrades to athletic facilities and the high school, improvements to district technology, and new school buses.
The board voted 4-0 on Monday to put the measure on the upcoming May ballot to address projected growth in the area.
“We’ve got a facilities committee within the district that’s looking at our long-term facilities needs, and growth is imminent as that group sees it,” board President Kevin Faciane said. “We’ve got four or five new housing projects that have either broken ground or are about to, so we’ve got projections that the size of this district could double in the next eight years — and we don’t have room for it under our current structure.
“So we’re being proactive in getting ahead of the growth so we’ll have an ideal learning environment when the growth does come,” he said.
The Argyle school board called the bond election just under the wire of the deadline for placing items on the May 10 ballot. According to the Texas secretary of state website, Friday is the deadline for ordering an election.
The district currently has 1,938 students. A demographer’s report presented to the school board last month projected that enrollment could grow by another 1,046 students within the next five years and 2,577 in the next 10 years.
Superintendent Telena Wright said Tuesday that the bond package could boost the tax rate by 12.5 cents per $100 valuation if the bond passes. That equates to $125 for every $100,000 on a home, she said.
The school board’s decision to call a bond election comes nearly a year and a half after Argyle voters approved a 6-cent maintenance and operations tax rate increase to offset increased expenses for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The bond package would be paid for through a tax category known as the interest and sinking fund.
The bond package emerged from board discussion about a year and a half ago about how to handle overcrowding at the combined high school-middle school campus. Plans initially called for reconfiguring Argyle Intermediate School to allow the district to move seventh- and eighth-grade students to the intermediate campus and fifth-graders to Hilltop Elementary School.
The school board later switched gears, halting plans to reconfigure Argyle Intermediate and turning instead to a possible bond election. Earlier this month, the board approved payment of $226,537 in previous bond funds to STB Architects for work the firm did in planning changes to the intermediate school.
Faciane said future projections show a lot more growth at the elementary level, so the district changed directions to ensure there would be enough space at the lower grade levels instead of putting emphasis on the upper grade levels.
“We had the project ready to go, and I’m glad we switched gears because that wouldn’t have solved our problem if we’d done that, given the growth ... expected to come in different areas,” Faciane said.
He said it’s unsettling to pay money for a project that’s not going to happen.
“Once it became apparent that that wasn’t the best route to go for the district ... when we switched gears, that was just an unfortunate byproduct of that,” he said.
In January the school district approved Charles Edwards as its construction/project manager. On Feb. 3, the district interviewed architecture firms, and on Feb. 10 hired the Corgan firm as district architect for future projects.
The district’s facilities committee is made up of 12 people, including district administrators, three school board members, community representatives and individuals in the construction trade, Faciane said. School board member Spencer Jefferies serves as the facilities committee chairman.
Wright said if voters approve the bond package, the district is shooting for Phase 1 of the high school, which would house sixth- to eighth-graders, to be completed by fall 2016. The first phase, which could be constructed on a site of land owned by the district at FM1171 and U.S. Highway 377 in the Canyon Falls development, would serve as a 750-student middle school until a second phase for a high school could be built, she said. The second phase would be part of a future bond package, Wright said.
If approved by voters, the goal would be to have all bond projects completed by fall 2016.
Matthew Boles, a managing director for RBC Capital Markets who advises the district, said the district doesn’t currently have the bonding capacity to proceed immediately with the full $45 million package, but he said growth in the district should expand the capacity.
“We feel comfortable that if we use the growth projections that have been provided to us that you can get close to $40 [million] to $42 million depending on what the interest rate market does, depending on what your growth does,” he said. “It could be more, it could be a little less, but we’re comfortable in that ballpark.”
Wright said the district will hold public meetings to explain details of the bond proposal, but as of Tuesday no meetings had been scheduled.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.