Royal ISD has announced a bond election will be on the ballot for district residents when they hit the polls this Nov. 3. The three-proposition package comes out to a total of $38.4 million and is …
Royal ISD has announced a bond election will be on the ballot for district residents when they hit the polls this Nov. 3. The three-proposition package comes out to a total of $37.3 million and is not expected to cause the district’s tax rate to increase and is expected to improve student safety, said RISD Superintendent Rick Kershner.
“Obviously, our goal is to always provide a safe environment and an environment that is conducive for all kids to be successful in learning,” Kershner said.
The bond package is intended to address two things, Kershner said. The first is the district’s upcoming growth and the second is aging infrastructure across RISD schools, including buildings and outdoor spaces, which are in need or repair, replacement or improvement.
Growth comes in the form of new subdivisions coming into RISD such as Freeman Ranch which is currently under construction on FM 529, Kershner said. He knows at least 20 homes are currently under construction in the development now.
RISD Business Manager Gladys Hein said the developer, LGI Homes, has said the development will have a total of about 840 lots.
With an estimated 1.5 students per household, Freeman Ranch alone is expected to add about 1,260 students to the district’s current student body of 2,470 students, Kershner said.
“Other developers are also looking at buying land in the district. We’re trying to make sure that we’re out in front of that and prepared – not only for growth but to maintain the facilities that we have so we get longer use out of the facilities that are currently here,” Kershner said.
While those added residents may put some strain on the school system as it works to accommodate the added students, Hein said it has an added benefit in helping keep the tax rate from increasing despite the debt that would be incurred by the bond package, if it is approved by voters. Because each lot in the new development is improved, it increases the taxable value of the property and the added population to the district will also be paying for the debt, making it so both existing and new homeowners are paying for the improved facilities.
The district’s tax rate last year was $1.427167 per $100 valuation, Hein said. With reductions this year due to new state laws and increased property values, that rate has gone down to $1.321817 per $100 valuation.
Hein added that the district’s credit ratings are A+ with Standard and Poor’s and AAA with a Permanent School Fund Guarantee, setting the district up to responsibly manage any bond issuances.
“Property values have increased and the collection rate has been high, so based on those two situations, if this bond passes, our tax rate for debt service will remain the same,” Klein said.
Paying for safety
Kershner said the district worked hard at establishing its list of needs to include in the three bond proposals. The process began with an assessment from a consultant that looked at growth, facility maintenance and other factors. That led to the formation of the district’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee which reviewed the consultant’s findings, looked at feedback from staff, faculty and the community and then came forward with a recommendation.
Some of the bond items are safety related, Kershner said. Examples include the replacement of the roof on the RISD STEM academy which is simply dilapidated due to age.
“It leaks in different places and its basically just worn (out),” Kershner said. “It’s at the end of its functioning lifespan for that building. It’s a 1984 model so it’s been there a while.”
Additional safety features the district is looking to implement are security cameras that are interchangeable throughout the district, upgrades to the HVAC systems at multiple campuses, adding controlled entry vestibules to multiple buildings and upgrades to playgrounds at the district’s ECC, elementary school and STEM Academy.
Building improvements are a large part of the bond package, including a prospective new campus under Proposition C and added classrooms at the Early Childhood Center, Kershner said. The eight-classroom addition would be actual classrooms rather than portables which can present a safety hazard, especially for the younger students that attend that campus.
Replacing three buses which are at the end of their lifespan is also important, Kershner said.
Nine buses total are in Proposition A. Six of the buses are intended to meet the needs of the district as the student population increases, Klein said.
The district also needs to add a road between the Royal Early Childhod Center and FM 359 to alleviate traffic in the mornings and reduce the risk of accidents, Kershner said.
“The stacking program has done well for a long time but based on growth there’s a need for (a road) now,” Kershner said.
Kershner said that without the bonds, the district would have to struggle through and find a way to make things work. However, without the added classroom space and potential to purchase land for a new campus, things would get tight quickly which could negatively impact students.
“We can’t raise taxes,” Kershner said. “So, we would have to just limp along and make do with what we have, and I guess find ways to make sure our facilities extend without additional funds.”
District Marketing Coordinator Christi Ginn said the lack of bond funding would put the district in a very difficult place and force the administration to piecemeal the projects together as best they could. This would be especially true of added classroom capacity in the form of a new wing to the district’s facilities and added kitchen capacity at campuses throughout the district.
“It would be very difficult to accommodate that new growth without that new wing or new facilities,” Ginn said.
CORRECTION: Numbers provided by the school district were initially incorrect from an original assessment by their advisor on the bond package. The total amoun for the bond is $37.3 million with about $27.6 million for Prop. A, $5.7 million for Prop. B and $4 million for Prop. C. These figures are less than the original figures provided by Royal ISD and have been incorporated into the story and sidebar.