The cost for new schools, a stadium and upgrades to older buildings in the Killeen Independent School District is estimated at nearly $500 million, and taxpayers will be asked to pay a portion of that.
The school district plans to put a bond on the May 2018 ballot. In advance, the district has to fine-tune its priorities, set the bond amount and persuade the public to approve it.
KISD officials selected 104 people for a steering committee and sent invitations out last week.
The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, and the district is awaiting responses from potential members.
Names or professions of those sent invitations were not released by the district.
“School board members and district officials made recommendations for membership on the committee,” said Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer. “They are all taxpayers or residents of KISD.”
Those who agree to serve on the bond steering committee will be named before Thursday’s meeting.
The bond steering committee meetings will be open to the public. “Members of the public will have a mechanism for providing feedback to the committee,” Abbott said.
At last week’s KISD board workshop, Superintendent John Craft presented a potential May 2018 bond planning calendar. It lists meetings scheduled for the bond steering committee and key benchmarks needed to reach the Feb. 16 deadline to call for a bond election proposed for May 5.
The list of projects that could be funded by a bond issue continues to expand, as discussed at Tuesday’s board workshop.
The board discussed the need to replace 239 aging and inefficient heating and air conditioning units at six campuses. KISD board member Marvin Rainwater asked if purchasing school buses could be part of a bond issue. Craft said that could be considered, as could retrofitting current school buses with seat belts. New school buses are required to have three-point seat belts, according to a state law passed during the 2017 legislative session. Existing school buses are not required by the law to be retrofitted with seat belts.
Projects included on the district’s Strategic Facility Plan will be on the bond steering committee’s agenda, as are the conditions and needs of existing KISD buildings.
Three elementary schools and a middle school are featured on the Strategic Facility Plan. A high school, estimated to cost $173 million is seen by Craft as a priority.
Craft made the point that three of the four existing KISD high schools are well over capacity, with Harker Heights High School the most overcrowded.
The possible inclusion of a new football stadium could prove contentious for the bond steering committee. Estimated to cost $50 million, Craft acknowledged at the board workshop that he isn’t sure where it would be built.
The new high school would be south of the Killeen Police Department on a 67.5-acre lot. A stadium would require about 30 to 35 acres, if it were to be comparable to Leo Buckley Stadium.
Adding a new high school without a stadium could have disadvantages, Craft said. Football teams could find themselves playing games Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.
“I don’t think the bond election revolves around the stadium. The bond steering committee will absolutely take it up,” Craft said. “It’s a little premature to speculate.”
Other considerations for the bond steering committee are repairs and renovations to 12 KISD school buildings near or over 50 years old.
If all the projects mentioned at previous KISD board meetings were approved for inclusion, the bond issue would amount to nearly $500 million.
“The law does not require a bond committee, but committees are considered best practice,” said Barbara Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards.
According to KISD’s overview of the bond steering committee’s purpose, the goal is to “bring forward a plan to the KISD Board of Trustees that will include recommendations as to what should be included and how much money should be requested in a possible bond election.”
That recommendation will be presented to the KISD board at its Dec. 12 meeting.
As the bond steering committee wades through what may prove to be a mountain of information, the process will be transparent, according to the district overview. “All presentations, materials and meeting minutes will be posted online for Committee member use and public consumption.”
On Nov. 9, the steering committee will meet at East Ward Elementary. The KISD Career Center will be the site of the Nov. 16 meeting, with the Nov. 30 meeting at Smith Middle School. If a meeting is necessary Dec. 7, it would take place at Nolan Middle School.
All bond steering committee meetings will begin at 6 p.m.