By SHELLY WILKISON
Growth within the Liberty Hill Independent School District has shown a steady increase in the past 12 months, according to a demographic study released this week.
As new subdivisions increasingly dot the landscape throughout the school district, a study shared with school trustees Monday shows there were 42 residential closings in the third quarter of this year — the highest quarterly total in more than five years. New home starts during the same period of time totalled 51.
“We want those numbers to be as close as possible,” said Superintendent Rob Hart. “That indicates a healthy housing market, and we are closing the gap.”
The report, compiled for LHISD by School District Strategies, shows the annual start rate doubled over the past 12 months reaching near-record levels. Hart said there were 180 new home starts and 127 closings during the past 12 months — the most activity in six years.
The activity moves Liberty Hill up to number 13 in total annual new home closings among school districts in the Greater Austin area. Leander is still ranked first in the number of new home closings with 1,681 in the past 12 months, while Round Rock and Austin follow at number two and three, respectively. Georgetown was ranked six with 684 closings and 769 starts in the past 12 months.
A list of the top-selling subdivisions in the school district shows Rancho Sienna performing first with 52 closings in the past 12 months. Stonewall Ranch saw 29
closings and Quarry Lake 10.
Hart said the median price of a home in LHISD during the third quarter was $280,019, with most new homes being built in the $251,000 to $300,000 price range.
The report shows 766 fully developed vacant lots on the ground currently, with 274 lots under development in Bridle Gate (13), Oaks at San Gabriel (162), Sunrise Acres (13), and Rancho Sienna Section 5 (86). Liberty Parke, a planned subdivision inside the city limits of Liberty Hill, will have 336 lots.
“The shift (in growth) has moved to the east,” Hart said, referring to the new subdivisions growing in the eastern part of the school district.
The report shows another 11,620 total single-family residential lots are planned in the district.
In addition to new home sales, the number of resales in the last 12 months is up 34 percent over the same period last year. The report shows 189 resales.
School district officials keep a close watch on growth in the area as it indicates an increase in the number of students.
From 2004 through the third quarter this year, enrollment has increased from 1,973 students to 2,984.
Hart said if the planned but currently undeveloped housing projects are active by 2018, the district could see enrollment at 5,511 in 2023.
He said projections show that by 2020, the high school, which opened to students this fall, will have reached its capacity with 1,743 students.
The school district could have as many as 2,050 student in elementary grades, the intermediate school (grades five and six) could have 812 students, and as many as 905 in the junior high grades.
Hart said families with older children are typically those who purchase homes at higher price levels. As the median price of a home increases in Liberty Hill, it is likely that enrollment at the higher grades will increase.
Hart said the district reported to UIL that 954 students were enrolled at the high school on the official reporting date at the end of October. Those numbers will serve as the basis for Liberty Hill’s new place in UIL alignment for two years, and officials will learn the results on Feb. 1, 2014.
Hart said a new Class 6A will be added in 2014, which means a possible change for Liberty Hill.
“I feel sure we will stay in 3A, but it will really be 4A because of the added 6A classification,” Hart said. “Travel is tough in Region 1 and we are hoping for a better region travel-wise.”
In recent weeks, Liberty Hill athletic teams have traveled to Lubbock and Snyder for playoffs and regional competitions.
Also Monday, the Board adopted policy updates reflective of action taken by the Legislature earlier this year.