Shadow Creek HS under construction.

AISD seeking $245 million bond referendum

In News by Reporter News

Voters residing in the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) will be asked to support a school bond referendum in the November election this year. Calling for a bond was expected as there currently exists a significant condition of overcrowding at a large portion of AISD schools, most prevalently in the fast growing west side of the district. Demographers project a steady growth rate of more than 1000 students each year for the next decade. This year alone 1,138 students were projected to be added to school enrollments and that number has been surpassed within the first two weeks of the school year. Over the next nine months still more students will need to be accommodated as new residents continue to move into the area. The total enrollment for this school year is projected at 20,999. By 2020 that number is expected to be 26,086 and in 2025 it is anticipated at 31,913.

According to statistics released by AISD, of the 15 elementary schools in service at the beginning of this school year 10 are projected to be over capacity. It is predicted that elementary school campuses alone will add close to 500 students each year for the foreseeable future. The current elementary school design used by AISD accommodates 800 students. Temporary and flex buildings are being used at many campuses to accommodate the crowding and some campuses have even resorted to using rooms designed for other purposes as classrooms. Overcrowding also stresses ancillary school services such as busing, cafeterias, and libraries. Meridiana Elementary is currently under construction with a planned completion in time to allow operation in the next school year, offering some relief to the undesirable situation of elementary campuses on the west side.

Similar situations exist at secondary campuses as well. AISD currently operates 6 junior high schools and 2 high schools. This school year saw the opening of the new Manvel Junior High that will provide temporary relief to the growth of Rodeo Palms and Nolan Ryan, both serving the west side. The current junior high design used by AISD accommodates 1000 students. Nolan Ryan last school year saw their enrollment numbers at 1239 students, more than 23% over capacity. Just as the case with elementary campuses, stress on ancillary services is present as well. Two high schools serve the district. Alvin HS is expected to be at capacity this school year at roughly 2600 students. Manvel HS, however, is projected to see enrollment at 3092, which is over 400 students above the designed capacity of 2685. Next school year will see the opening of the new Shadow Creek High School campus in Pearland that will ease the situation at Manvel HS. Like the elementary schools, secondary campuses experiencing overcrowding are having to utilize temporary buildings and flex space. Strong growth is expected to persist at the secondary level as large elementary classes begin to matriculate through the district.

The building program contemplated by the bond package anticipates total spending of $285 million. Voters will be asked to approve $245 million in bonds with the district funding the balance with $28 million from the current fund balance in the maintenance and operations budget. Fund balance essentially is money remaining unspent from preceding budget years. Another $12.6 million will be contributed from previously authorized bond funds in 2013 and 2009 that went unused due to solid financial stewardship by the district’s building projects department. In order to service the bond funds, district officials claim taxpayers will see an increase in their tax burden not to exceed 8.3 cents per $100 evaluation. That translates to a higher yearly tax bill of $80.30 per $100,000 of taxable home value, or $6.92 each month. AISD administrators have proven worthy of taxpayers trust in prior bond spending programs. Taxpayers enjoyed lower tax rate increases than anticipated in each of the prior two bond programs. At $100,000 of valuation, the 2009 package anticipated an increase in the tax rate of 9 cents and resulted in an actual 4 cent increase. The national recession experienced at the start of this decade was a contributing factor to the district benefiting from lower construction and materials costs. The 2013 bond package anticipated an increase in the tax rate of 11.39 cents though taxpayers have experienced an actual increase in 8.79 cents. Recent experience has seen AISD taxpayers faring far better than some other area school districts which have seen poor stewardship of bond funds resulting in cancelled and/or compromised projects and higher burdens placed on taxpayers. The Houston ISD is facing audits of its 2012 bond of $1.9 billion which administrators admit is facing a $211 million shortfall. While the fast growth of the district presents varied challenges, the increase in residents does serve to dilute the burden on taxpayers as it is shared by a larger number of contributors.

The bond program will fund four new elementary schools as well as land for a fifth. Costs for the elementary schools range from a low $24.5 million to a high of $31.2 million. The additional land is projected at $2.3 million. A new Junior High is provided for at a cost of $42.2 million and land for another is included at $3.3 million. Land for a fourth High School is included at a cost of $10.5 million. Other expenditures of note include a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center in Manvel at a cost of $45.3 million. The structure will replace the old Manvel JH which will be demolished and replaced with a new 135,000 square foot structure accommodating 800 students in various programs as driven by student interests and the job market. Upgrades to the Alvin HS auditorium and stadium total nearly $19 million. A new transportation center will relieve the current facility that is over capacity and will require $8.1 million. And a new district stadium will require $41.4 million. The funds necessary for the land acquisition were provided for in the previous bond issue. The new stadium is contemplated for 10,000 seats and will be constructed of a masonry façade covering a concrete, steel, and aluminum structure. It will feature a two-story press box, a field house with community room, and a state of the art scoreboard and sound system. The district has not made public potential sites for the new stadium.

Some taxpayers tend toward an initial rejection of public money being spent on non-academic programs, particularly as they may relate to sports activities. The percentage of the bond program for renovations to the Alvin High School auditorium and stadium and a new district stadium is 21% of the total package. With the new high school coming to operation next year, three programs will require facilities in which to compete. The current Alvin stadium is not up to current standards to sufficiently accommodate the teams or the fans. It is old, land locked and unable to be expanded, and there is virtually no parking available. Several games in recent years saw fans being refused admission due to its lack of capacity. Residents in the fast growing west side are currently required to drive some thirty minutes to Alvin to watch their kids play. A district stadium more centrally located would better serve all but those in Alvin proper. The amount budgeted for the stadium is reasonable when compared to other recently approved facilities in nearby districts. Students participating in sports and the parents and fans who support them should have a competent facility in which to compete.

Election Day this year will be on Nov. 3. Early voting will be available beginning Oct. 19 and will run through Oct. 30. Brazoria County will continue the policy of allowing voters to cast a ballot at any county polling location at both the early voting period and on Election Day. Additionally, voting will be available at most AISD campuses on a rolling schedule. Local schools will make the information available to parents as their selected day approaches. A wealth of information is available on the AISD website (www.alvinisd.net) to help taxpayers make an informed decision on whether or not the bond merits support.

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