KISD reviews growth, moves forward with bond preparation at Dec. 14 meeting

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 12/15/20

Katy ISD moved forward with forming of a bond committee to determine if the district should move forward with a bond referendum in the May 2021 election. If it moves forward, the district may utilize …

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KISD reviews growth, moves forward with bond preparation at Dec. 14 meeting

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Katy ISD moved forward with forming of a bond committee to determine if the district should move forward with a bond referendum in the May 2021 election. If it moves forward, the district may utilize the funding to build schools to service the district’s growing population.

“Katy ISD is now the fifth largest producer of homes out of 61 school districts in the Houston area. The majority of the lots in the northwest quadrant of Katy ISD are building out rapidly.  By the time Katy ISD is fully built-out, it should have approximately 115,500 students” said Pat Guseman of Population and Survey Analysts.

Population problems

Guseman and her coworker Kris Pool represent PASA, the district’s demographics consultant, and presented recent findings regarding the district’s anticipated growth through 2030. Those projections indicated continued population growth in the district which would increase the district’s student population from about 84,400 during this school year to between 94,300 and 99,500 by 2025. Projections for 2030 place the district’s student body at between about 101,000 and 112,000 students, they said.

Most of the growth in the area appears to be in the northwestern portion of the district, Guseman said. This growth pattern is the result of the parklands – such as the Barker and Addicks reservoirs – being set aside from development and large portions of the remainder of the district being built out in the south and eastern portions of KISD’s physical boundaries. Meanwhile, new subdivisions are coming to the district’s northwestern area that attract millennials who are having families and looking for entry-level homes. The Elyson community along FM 529 and smaller developments to its west, including small subdivisions in Waller County meet this need, drawing new people to the area.

According to PASA’s report, the addition of homes and a strong overall economy relative to Greater Houston drawing more developers is expected to continue to draw growth to the region, causing the district to grow in the northwest and place strains on schools in the area including Katy and Stockdick junior high schools.

According to a presentation by KISD Chief Communications Officer Andrea Grooms, Katy is already over capacity and Stockdick is nearly at capacity with space for only 50 more students. Haskett Junior High, now under construction near the intersection of Clay and Katy Hockley roads, would open with a capacity of 1,400 students in 2021 and be at a projected population of 1,373 students by 2024 and at a projected 1,813 students by 2026. Elementary and high school campuses in the area would face similarly pressured capacities, according to the presentation.

Those strains place the district in a situation where it needs to consider adding multiple campuses at all levels, Pool said. Actions proposed by PASA include adding two high schools in the relatively near future and another prior to the district being completely built out. Two or more elementary schools may also be needed in the northwestern portion of the district, including one in the Cane Island area to relieve pressure on Bryant Elementary, Pool said.

“Clearly, the district is going to need to open several elementary schools in this area rapidly,” Pool said. “The one that I mentioned in Cane Island will relieve the top part of Bryant (Elementary’s service area), but then we’re looking at McElwain (Elementary) in 2025 will be pushing 3,000 students, and with each elementary – new elementary anyway – having a capacity of just over 1,000, we can almost utilize three entire schools there.”

Bonding growth

The population discussion moved into a discussion of the district proposing a bond committee. A statement released by the district after a vote that approved the reformation of the KISD Community Bond Advisory Committee – sometimes referred to as the CBAC – said the committee would be formed to “review capital needs in consideration of a May 2021 Bond Referendum.”

Grooms said the district would have a shortened timeframe and number of meetings for the committee to meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic but would move forward with the meetings at the Merrell Center to facilitate social distancing among the committee’s roughly 150 members. The meetings would happen in Jan. 13 and 20 as well as a possible meeting Jan. 27. A subsequent special KISD Board of Trustees meeting is expected Feb. 8 to approve the recommendations of the committee, followed by submission of any approved bond measure by the state’s Feb. 12 deadline, she said.

KISD Chief Financial Officer Chris Smith said he felt confident the district could put forth a bond measure of $700 million without raising the district’s tax rate. He also pointed out that the district has consistently lowered its overall rate over time and has a debt service tax rate of $0.39 per $100 valuation. The total tax rate, which includes the maintenance and operations tax rate of $0.9988 per $100 valuation, is currently $1.3888 per $100 valuation.

Smith also said that now is a good time for the district to move forward with a bond as the bond market favors borrowers with interest rates being much lower in recent years and still appearing to be trend low.

An exact bond proposal is not yet available, pending results of upcoming committee meetings and Trustee Dawn Champagne asked for more details.

“We’re still in development of that. …,” said KISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski. “We probably need five or six schools in the next (bond) but that is not official yet of what we think, but for sure a high school, probably a junior high and a couple of elementaries for sure – maybe as many as three.”

Katy ISD, PASA, bonds

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