Important Update About FBISD Capital Planning (7/27/2018)
Throughout the summer, our team in FBISD has been busy preparing a recommendation to conduct a bond election in November 2018. The recommendation includes projects that will advance our district mission and vision, improve safety and security, address educational adequacy, and build new schools or building additions to address enrollment growth. A significant portion of the bond proposal is based on the Facilities Master Planning process completed earlier this year. I am writing today, because it is important that our entire FBISD community stays updated on our planning efforts. At this time, the Board has not called a bond election, but they will be further reviewing the bond proposal at the August 6 workshop and will consider calling the bond election at their August 13 Board Meeting.
During Monday night’s Board meeting, and following discussions with our Bond Oversight Committee and other stakeholders, the administration presented a proposal that includes two three-year phases. Phase one includes a $992 million bond referendum for November 2018, followed by a projected $705.2 million bond plan in 2021.
You may be aware that earlier this summer, as part of the ongoing Capital Planning process, the administration estimated that $1.7 billion in capital improvement projects would be anticipated in the next six years. This included recommended construction identified during the Facilities Master Planning process, safety and security improvements, major renovations and maintenance to address adequacy and deficiencies, and transportation and technology needs.
This $1.7 billion six year program did not include “frills” or “wish list” items such as large stadiums or other big-ticket items that were not directly related to our core business of fulfilling our District mission and vision, but we are well aware that the originally drafted $1.7 billion capital plan would have been more than three times more than our last bond referendum in 2014. With that in mind, we have spent the last month meeting with our Bond Oversight Committee and other partners to gain insight and feedback, resulting in our recommendation to propose two three-year phases to the Capital Plan. We believe this is a more fiscally prudent approach that will help us take care of outstanding needs and deficiencies that were not adequately addressed in the 2014 bond, while planning for the future.
What this means
Under the plan proposed Monday, the $992 million November 2018 bond election would include projects that have been identified as the highest priority, including most construction projects and costs associated with safety and security enhancements. In developing these two phases, District staff also worked very carefully with our academic, athletics, and fine arts departments to review and verify current deficiencies and prioritize projects related to existing facilities and educational adequacy. We know these programs are critical to developing well-rounded students in accordance with the FBISD Profile of a Graduate. During this process, staff prioritized projects such as auditorium updates, orchestra hall additions, and turf and track upgrades at many schools.
You can learn more about the recommendation by reviewing materials from Monday’s meeting online, including a breakdown of the phases, our discussion with Board members about the rationale that led to this approach, and the potential three-penny impact on our current tax rate. In sum, we want to be mindful of what our taxpayers can absorb while responsibly addressing the most immediate needs of the District.
In our ongoing conversations with Board members and the community, we have openly acknowledged that our underinvestment in past years has led to a large need in life-cycle and other needs, and we do not wish to repeat this in the future. Because of this underinvestment, we have capacity in our tax rate – meaning that even with a successful bond and a three-penny increase in the tax rate, we will still have one of the lowest projected tax rates compared to other districts nearby, and with a lower debt per student ratio.
Following Monday’s discussion with the Board of Trustees, staff will continue to refine our plans and then formally present its recommendation at the August 6 Board workshop, and then ask the Board to take action and call a bond election at its regular business meeting August 13. Please know that in prioritizing these projects, we are still honoring the work of the Facilities Master Planning process – the projects identified are still there and the timeline for project completion does not change. We have now simply broken projects into two cycles.
In the next few weeks, as our students return to school, you can expect to hear much more about this bond planning, but for now, I wanted to make you aware of the ongoing conversations we are having with our Board of Trustees. I am thankful of their leadership, as well as the community feedback that has brought us to this step in the planning process. We are a better district because of this partnership. I appreciate your continued support.