Many area school districts facing bond elections



The skyrocketing costs of keeping up with growth in Liberty Hill ISD is not a unique phenomenon as 42 Texas school districts held bond elections in May, and 48 others did so in November 2017.

Liberty Hill ISD is asking voters to approve a $98.6 million bond package in November, but the district is not alone in its need for more space and renovations.

Statistics from area districts, as well as statewide numbers show that what is happening in Liberty Hill is not unusual for a high-growth area.

Liberty Hill is one of four area districts combining for $1.1 billion in proposed bonds this November.

Residents in Georgetown, Round Rock and Pflugerville are grappling with growth and taxes in their own school districts as each will also have a bond decision to make on Nov. 6.

In Round Rock, the proposal is for $508.4 million, one year after voters turned down a $572 million package.

“This bond addresses critical needs to ensure our students have access to the education they deserve and our citizens and parents have come to expect,” said Round Rock ISD Superintendent Steven Flores. “Part of these critical needs focuses on the areas of addressing growth, safety and security, instructional technology and capital renewal updates in our district.”

Round Rock voters approved a $299 million bond in 2014.

Georgetown ISD’s bond package is the largest ever considered by its voters at $166 million. The first of two propositions is $150.5 million and would fund the construction of two new elementary campuses, the renovation of another, land acquisition and other items. The second proposition is for $15.5 million and is for a swim center.

The last bond passed by Georgetown voters was for $160 million in 2015.

Pflugerville ISD has a $329 million proposal on the table, which includes three new campuses at a total of $140 million.

Recent history
Three local districts won approval from voters last November for a total of $1.8 billion in bonds. Austin ISD’s bond package was for $1.1 billion, Leander’s came in at $454 million and Lake Travis passed a $253 million package.

The 2017 Leander ISD bond is for design of a seventh high school, land for an eighth, and maintenance and renovations at all high schools. It also includes a ninth middle school at $63 million, three new elementary schools and design for another at $123 million, plus 88 new buses at $10 million and a new transportation facility on the north side of the district at $17 million.

In all, 48 districts went to the polls last November, with 37 of them approving their bond packages.

More recently, 42 districts decided on bond packages in May, with 10 of those being defeated by voters. The total dollars on the ballot across the state in May was $5.3 billion.

How much is a school?
Voters are wondering why Liberty Hill is planning a $32.2 million elementary school, but actual and projected costs for similar projects throughout Central Texas support the budget.

Hays ISD, Killeen ISD and Harlandale ISD opened a total of four elementary schools this fall at an average cost of $33.75 million per campus.

The two new elementary schools planned for Pflugerville are projected at $38 million and $40 million.

Liberty Hill is budgeting its new middle school at $50.5 million in the bond package, while Leander ISD has a $63 million middle school project in the works and if it passes, the new Pflugerville middle school is budgeted at $62 million.

Growing pains
Dripping Springs ISD, on the opposite end of Austin from Liberty Hill, is similar in size and growth to Liberty Hill ISD.

Over the last 10 years, Liberty Hill ISD has grown by 56.7 percent, according to Fast Growth Texas. Dripping Springs – with a student population near 6,000, compared to Liberty Hill’s 4,360 – has grown by 49.6 percent over the same period.

A $132 million bond proposal in Dripping Springs passed by 37 votes in May after a recount. The bulk of that bond package was for a pair of elementary schools at a combined cost of $72 million.

According to Fast Growth Texas, Liberty Hill is the ninth-fastest growing school district by percentage of students over the five-year period from 2011 to 2016 at 28.5 percent.