Fort Bend ISD trustees considering $1.7 billion bond proposal
After months of planning and tumultuous town hall gatherings for parents and residents to weigh in, Fort Bend ISD administrators recently proposed a six-year plan totaling more than $1.7 billion to fund new schools, land for new schools, campus upgrades, repairs and expansions, security improvements, new computers, digital devices, classroom technology, hardware and network infrastructure, athletic and fine arts improvements, new school buses and a new bus terminal facility among other things.
The list of possible projects also included $10 million for the district’s “green initiative” programs, according to agenda documents.
Created with the help of consultants from PBK Architecture, the project list forms a framework for a not-yet-approved school bond election expected to go before voters next November.
Administrators detailed the plan during a 26-page presentation to trustees at the June 18 school board meeting. Nothing is official as of yet as trustees have not approved the plans and could decide to make changes. But with just a few weeks left before the deadline to approve a bond referendum, trustees appear headed for the home stretch toward deciding what will be included in the bond proposal.
What’s on the project list?
With the bond proposal now entering the final planning phase, trustees are set to begin discussions to decide the proposed projects, which are divided into three basic elements: safety and security needs, technology-related items and capital improvement projects such as new schools and campus renovations, repairs and expansions.
With the costs totaling $1,717,555,502, administrators estimate the largest portion of the bond funding is needed for construction costs of approximately $1.4 billion.
Technology projects total $178,650, and safety and security needs totaled $27,786,500.
The proposal also includes $22.1 million to purchase land for new schools and $21.1 million for transportation needs such as replacing aging school buses. The capital plan summary also includes roughly $19 million for other costs, such as contingency funds to cover budget overruns, funds for salaries for district employees who will work full-time to oversee and help manage large construction projects and funds already tagged for PBK Architecture for project management services.
Trustee K.P. George asked how money set aside for educational adequacy would be used.
“We want to make sure that what we put into new schools, we go back to existing schools and bring them up to par to the extent that we can,” chief operations officer Oscar Perez said.
Later, trustee Dave Rosenthal commented on the districts ability to renovate older schools to remain equal to a newly-constructed campus.
“We all acknowledge you can’t really do that for schools that are 40 to 50 years old. It’s pretty difficult to do and I’d argue it’s impossible and we should keep that in mind.”
Of the roughly $1.4 billion identified for construction projects, the largest portion would be used to renovate and upgrade many of the district’s existing schools with roughly $565.7 million for facility deficiency and life cycle needs such as roof replacements and $287.7 million to make sure older campuses remain well maintained and are in line with newer schools.
The plan includes funds four new elementary schools ($46 million to $53 million each), a new middle school ($97 million) and $178 million for a new high school on the district’s east side to help with overcrowding at Ridge Point High School in the Sienna Plantation master-planned community near Missouri City.
School additions are budgeted for three schools totaling $26.1 million as well as another $65 million to rebuild Lakeview and Meadows elementary schools, two of the district’s older campuses which consultants had originally recommended for possible closure.
Construction costs also include $14 million for a new natatorium facility and $14.3 million for a new school bus terminal facility. Renovations and upgrades for Fine Arts program are included totaling $78,186,968 and roughly $35.9 million is included for athletic improvements and upgrades such as new bleachers, fields, sports equipment and athletic courts.
More than $65 million is proposed for “future-ready” furniture and $4.3 million is allocated for kitchen and cafeteria expansions and renovations. Library renovations proposed total $15.7 million and $973,310 is included for lighting upgrades across the district.
Repairs and replacement needs totaling approximately $565.7 million include over $205 million for architecture, $114 million for building envelope repairs, $55.9 million for athletic facilities and uses, $14.6 million for plumbing needs, $47.6 million for mechanical systems repairs and $17.7 million is proposed for electrical system repairs and replacements.