LHISD voters to decide Saturday on $35 million bond issue

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The view of the main entry at the proposed Rancho Sienna Elementary School. In May, votes will consider a $35 million bond package, which includes $29 million for the new campus at Rancho Sienna. The school will house 800 students in grades Pre-K through five. (Courtesy Graphic)

The view of the main entry at the proposed Rancho Sienna Elementary School. On Saturday, May 7, voters will consider a $35 million bond package, which includes $29 million for the new campus at Rancho Sienna. The school will house 800 students in grades Pre-K through five. (Courtesy Graphic)

By SHELLY WILKISON

Voters in the Liberty Hill school district will cast ballots on a $35 million bond package from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Hill High School, 16500 W. SH 29.

If approved by voters, the district will build a new elementary school at Rancho Sienna subdivision, renovate the agriculture barn facility on the campus of the Junior High, make security improvements at Liberty Hill Elementary School, and other improvements to Liberty Hill Intermediate School.

The package also permits any funds left after construction is complete to be spent on land acquisition for future facilities.

With two days of early voting in the school district, 358 ballots were cast. Of those, 202 voted April 25 at Over the Hill Gang. On Monday, 156 voted at The Sienna House at Rancho Sienna.

According to Williamson County Elections division, there are 9,203 registered voters living within the school district. That’s up 11.6 percent from 8,246 in May 2015.

Last month, the school board cancelled its election for the Board of Trustees as there were no contested races.

Incumbents on the Liberty Hill City Council were also unopposed this spring — for the second year straight. That election was also cancelled, leaving the school bond issue as the only reason to go to the polls this week.

Rancho Sienna Elementary School has an estimated $29 million price tag. It will be built to house 800 students in grades pre-kindergarten through five, and its addition to the district will create a system of community schools. Before the school opens in August 2017, attendance lines will be drawn for the new school plus Liberty Hill Elementary and Bill Burden Elementary. Each campus will house students in those grade levels.

Liberty Hill Intermediate will be exclusive to sixth graders. It currently houses fifth and sixth grades.

After receiving proposals from other subdivisions in the LHISD, the administration and Board of Trustees in June 2015 chose Rancho Sienna to be the site of the third elementary school.

A contingency agreement was developed between the school district and subdivision owner Newland Communities. Superintendent Rob Hart said at that time that the 12-acre property set aside for the school in Rancho Sienna will be turned over to the school district on the contingency that the district sells the two-story building that formerly housed the administrative offices.

The agreement with Newland allows the district one year to sell the building on State Highway 29, which is valued at about $1 million. When the district closes on that sale, it will pay for the infrastructure already in place on the lot at Rancho Sienna. Hart said the agreement caps the expense at $550,000.

He said this week that if the bond passes, but the building doesn’t sell, the district can request an extension.

He said the lot at Via de Sienna Blvd. has easy access to Kauffman Loop, which is under construction now. That street runs on the north side of the subdivision from Ronald Reagan Blvd. to SH 29.

A spokesperson for developer Newland Communities said the school site will be linked to the projected 1,455 homes in the community by a network of trails and parks. Rancho Sienna opened in 2014 and has new homes priced from the $200,000s to $700,000s.

Also part of the bond package is renovations to the agriculture barn on the campus of the Junior High.

For more than a year, parents of agriculture students have been requesting improvements to the facility in the interest of student safety, including lights, proper drainage, and the need for a show arena.

Other bond priorities are improved security at the elementary school, and plumbing improvements and ceiling tiles at the intermediate campus.

Other bond priorities are improved security at the elementary school, and plumbing improvements and ceiling tiles at the intermediate campus.

A political action committee has been active in recent weeks communicating with voters through yard signs, direct mail and social media.

A Campaign & Expenditure report filed by the special purpose political action committee — Vote Yes on LHISD Bond — showed the committee raised $3,060 and spent $3,052 through April 26.

In contributions, the PAC received $3,000 from NASH Rancho Hills LLC, and $60 from Diana Lorance.

The PAC spent $$438.41 on flyers/postcards, $548.83 on large road signs and $960.72 on yard signs — all at DigiTex Printing. Mailers were printed at Minuteman Press for $950.33 and $153.97 was spent at Winkley’s on plywood/posts.

For election results Saturday, follow The Liberty Hill Independent on Facebook.

 

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