Katy ISD has announced that Heath Rushing, senior vice president and chief executive officer at Memorial Hermann Hospitals’ Cypress and Katy locations, will chair the KISD Community Bond …
Katy ISD has announced that Heath Rushing, senior vice president and chief executive officer at Memorial Hermann Hospitals’ Cypress and Katy locations, will chair the KISD Community Bond Advisory Committee to determine if district staff will recommend a bond proposal to the KISD Board of Trustees. Meetings regarding the bond are expected to begin Apr. 7 and the last day the board may propose a bond for the November election is Aug. 17.
“Everyone in this district has a vested interest in what our school district is doing to help provide the necessary education for our community,” Rushing said. “And what better way to assist in that – to provide some insight, some perspective into service by participating and helping lead this bond process.”
Katy ISD approved the bond committee’s formation at its Jan. 21 meeting. At the time, Assistant Superintendent Ted Vierling cited rapid growth in the district as reason to consider a bond in order to fund expansion of services to support a larger student population.
KISD’s student population is expected to hit the 100,000 mark in 2027, if not before, Superintendent Ken Gregorski said.
“Anyone who looks at what’s happening in Katy right now, sees the growth all around us. Bonds are how we keep up with that growth,” Gregorski said.
KISD has been issuing bonds about once every 3-4 years according to the district’s bonds website (http://www.katyisd.org/sites/bonds/Pages/default.aspx). According to district records, the bonds have been used to create and improve multiple campuses from 1994 to the present. The most recent bond was approved by voters in 2017 for $609 million and was used to fund Amy Campbell Elementary, Olga Leonard Elementary, Joe M. Adams Junior High and three new schools – one each at the elementary, junior high and high school levels – that are currently being planned.
“I think we’re lucky in KISD in that the last few bonds have been tailored in order to ensure no tax increase for the community,” Rushing said.
The district’s current debt service property tax rate is set at $0.39 per $100 valuation after the 2017 bond package was approved by voters. The rate had been $0.40 per $100 valuation dating back to 2002. The district’s total property tax rate is $1.4431 per $100 which is a reduction of $0.0735 per $100 valuation compared to last year’s rate. Previously, the total property tax rate had been $1.5166 steadily since the 2015-16 tax year.
Rushing said he was honored to be asked to bring his administrative expertise to the table to help lead the committee. The bond process will support the district’s continued excellence as one of the top-rated schools in the state, he said.
“To me that’s why this process is very important is that as a community we have a responsibility to help this community sustain that excellence into the future,” Rushing said.
Gregorski said he felt confident that the district had identified the right person to head the bond committee based on Rushing’s education, professional and school board experience.
“It’s always helpful when a board and a superintendent know who our leaders are in the community – those folks who are a part of our community and those folks who get involved in our schools and our district,” Gregorski said. “[Rushing] is one of those types of people.”
Gregorski said Rushing hits the “trifecta” of wants the district had for the Community Bond Advisory Committee with corporate leadership skills, his school board experience and understanding of schools and his active presence in the community.
“His goal is what our goal is – providing good schools with great teachers and good learning experiences for all of our children and to do so sometimes we’ve got to go out and we’ve got to do bonds to be able to get the things that are necessary for our kids to have what we call unparalleled learning experiences, and [Rushing] is part of that,” Gregorski said.
Rushing said his previous experience on the Humble ISD Board of Trustees from 2013-17 would help him in his effort to make sure the committee examined the bonds carefully and with full understanding.
“I do have some perspective on bonds. I formerly served as a school board member for Humble ISD from 2013 to 2017. I think, if anything, that offers a perspective of how important this process is for a school district to be able to sustain itself long-term,” Rushing said.
Rushing said his time on the Humble ISD board gave him an understanding of how budgeting and bonding work for a school district. General revenue and the operating budget pay for items such as salaries, day-to-day maintenance and other general operating expenses, he said. Meanwhile, bond funding helps school districts upgrade facilities or increase the number of campuses offered to the community. Rushing said he feels that his experience with schools will help to ensure that other bond advisory committee members understand those aspects.
“I think there’s an important part of education that goes along with this process that you have to start with,” Rushing said.
Rushing said he also is motivated with an interest to ensure the district succeeds for his three children who attend Katy ISD schools in grades 6, 5 and 2 and that such successes may need funding through bond funding.
“It helps supply much-needed dollars to help accommodate for future growth that’s expected in the district as well as to address aging facilities through renovation work,” Rushing said. “Those are generally significant projects that a general operating fund could not help solve for on its own.”
The next step in the bonds process is for the committee to begin meeting and evaluating the district’s needs, Gregorski said.
Meetings are expected to begin Apr. 7 said Maria DiPetta, Katy ISD media relations manager.
Membership in the committee is currently being determined, Gregorski said. A request for applications was sent out earlier in the year and that process closed Feb. 17 and notifications to those selected for the committee will occur soon, he said.
The overall committee process is expected to last 3-5 months, Gregorski said. Meetings will be held regularly and Gregorski said the general public is welcome to attend the meetings and observe in order to stay informed.
Rushing said the committee will examine a variety of issues that include examining the needs for new infrastructure and technology to keep up with the population growth in the district and other factors like needs for campus improvements.
“Once the committee feels like they’ve put something together in terms of a bond package that meets the future needs of the district, they bring that forward to the board of trustees in a presentation – which will happen in a board meeting,” Gregorski said.
Gregorski said he appreciates the community members who have stepped forward to help the district develop bond packages in the past and looks forward to working with Rushing and his group. The district is working to ensure transparency in the process by offering the space for observers at the committee meeting and residents are also welcome to continue watching the KISD board meetings in-person or online, he said.
Rushing said he is glad to be able to be a part of helping the district move forward with establishing the necessary funding to grow productively.
“I sort of look at this process as positive reinforcement that the district does take its role very seriously in providing the highest education through the district,” Rushing said.
Correction: This article previously indicated committee meetings would start within a week. The correct start date is Apr. 7, 2020. The article has been updated to reflect the correct date.