A bond election has become the primary option for Killeen Independent School District to fund its plans to build a new high school and football stadium.
On Tuesday, KISD Chief Financial Officer Megan Bradley presented an updated strategic facilities plan that includes opening the new high school and football stadium by the 2021-22 school year.
At KISD’s most recent board meeting Tuesday, board members discussed a May 5, 2018, bond election that is now slated as the tentative date to go for voter approval before construction begins on the new high school.
The district also published a proposed attendance zone map that details which students could attend the high school if it is built.
If the plan is not completed by 2021-22, Ellison, Harker Heights and Shoemaker high schools will each be more than 300 students over their suggested capacity.
Previously, district officials said that construction could take nearly three years for both a new high school for around 2,500 students, and a new football stadium.
Some residents expressed their concerns on Facebook regarding the plan to build a new high school and football stadium. Concerns included the possible increase in local property taxes in KISD, the district entering a debt service rate and congestion caused by construction near Stagecoach Road.
The new high school is expected to cost nearly $125 million, and a football stadium would add another $40 million to the district’s tab.
District officials expect to have approximately $72 million saved in their strategic facilities fund once Alice W. Douse Elementary and Roy J. Smith Middle School are completed this year.
KISD has only one football stadium that all KISD high schools share for athletic events, such as football, track and field and boys and girls soccer.
Overcrowding issues have plagued three district high school campuses. The four public high schools in KISD each have more than 2,000 students, and only Killeen High School is under its original suggested capacity.
These issues have forced nearly 60 percent of high school students to leave campus for lunch.
The trend of increasing student population is expected to continue in the 2017-18 school year. District officials said they expect a 0.84 percent increase next school year, or an additional 369 students, which would put the district’s enrollment at about 44,200 students.
More high school students live in south Killeen and Harker Heights, and because of this trend, the district has taken steps to prepare for future students in those areas, officials said.
The district previously purchased property near Chaparral and Featherline roads, according to a KISD statement. This property could be the location of a high school. The site was selected because of its location between Ellison High School and Harker Heights High School, officials said.
WHAT CANDIDATES THINK
The Herald asked KISD board candidates this week whether they felt district officials should use a bond election to fund a new high school and football stadium.
I am not so quick to spend taxpayers’ money, especially with the economy the way it is. The City of Killeen is already in debt, so I would hate for KISD to also be in debt as well.
Until I know that we’ve tried other options, I would not be in favor of a bond election.
I concur with Superintendent Craft’s recommendation to expand the career center in 2020 and to construct a new high school in 2021. In order to achieve these goals, I agree that a special school bond issuance would be required for such construction. As a board trustee, I would definitely vote in favor of such a bond. I also believe it is appropriate and fitting that the citizens of the district be able to vote on the bond as it would mean slightly higher taxes for most residents.
I applaud the KISD for offering a PSAT boot camp. The PSAT is not just a preparatory test for the SAT. The PSAT is a prime determinant of a student’s being able to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. KISD to my knowledge has never had a student achieve National Merit Scholar status. I believe that KISD should encourage more students to take the PSAT boot camp and the district should also be aggressive in pushing a boot camp for the SAT. When the average math and reading score is 50 points below national average, there is great room for improvement.
I am not yet ready to commit to a new football stadium. If I am elected as a trustee, I would need more details and information on the cost of such a stadium before I would vote in favor of such a bond. I believe the district should place a renewed priority on improving the academic performance of our students.
There are new initiatives currently in place with the STEM program and the early college high school. Regardless of whether the TEA scoring system was far or not, we all know there is room for academic improvement through our district.
I am a supporter of athletic and academic enrichment programs in the schools. We do our children no favor, however, if we spend our money on football stadiums without offering a quality education in order to ensure their future success.
If a district is willing to use a bond election to fund a new school building and a football stadium but not willing to use a bond election to pay teachers more, it is reasonable to assume that a district values facilities over faculty. If a district values buildings more than people, then it is reasonable to assume that such a district values resources more than people. If that is the case, then the district only needs to realign its perspective of resources to include people as the most valued resource, since people can never be replaced but they can be improved.
Did not respond to request for comment.
It is a lot more complicated than a yes or no answer to your question. Until all the facts have been properly vetted, it would be ill-advised to render an opinion on financing. It is my understanding that administration is developing a committee made up of business leaders, teachers, and students to provide feedback on this issue. I think this is a proactive approach, and I applaud the Board and administration for getting input from all stakeholders.
High schools with appropriately sized student bodies enhance the effectiveness of the educational experience for students, teachers and staff and project a positive, progressive image for our community.
A data-driven, objective analysis of the need for a new high school, with input from citizens served by KISD via focus groups and community town-hall meetings, needs to occur before a bond election is held. KISD’s current financial standing positions the district to benefit from a favorable interest rate environment, and a bond election provides the opportunity for a community-based funding vehicle.
Exploring greater utilization of the stadium on Fort Hood by improving community access also needs to be evaluated versus the construction of a new stadium.
Building a new High School I think is imperative to the growth of the district. A new Stadium should not be considered in the decision to build a new high school. Killeen does not need a new Stadium in my opinion. The voters will make the decision on whether they agree to use funding based on a bond election.