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KISD could use another $200 million

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Posted: Sunday, September 5, 2004 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:14 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Wendy Gragg

Killeen Daily Herald

One hundred million dollars down, $200 million to go.

Killeen Independent School District is finishing off $100 million in bond funds and at the same time facing a need for possibly $200 million more to build facilities over the next six years.

In 2002, KISD took advantage of the states plan for facility construction by holding a local bond election for $100 million, the biggest bond in KISD history. The $100 million bond was approved, with 54.4 percent of the ballots cast in favor and 45.6 percent against it.

That $100 million has bought taxpayers three new schools, which cost roughly $9 million, $13 million and $14 million. The bond also paid for expansion of four middle schools, nine new roofs and 10 new air-conditioner units. Three more schools will finish the $100 million off.

The $100 million bond meant an increase in the tax rate of about 9 cents. The current KISD tax rate is $1.5633, with 13.83 cents going to debt service and $1.425 going to maintenance and operations. The school districts debt service budget is $15.4 million.

The state contributed 70 percent of the cost of the bonds, and the remainder fell on local taxpayers, said Billy Walker, assistant superintendent for business services. The increase in the tax rate would have been more without the states assistance, he said.

The state no longer offers this bond deal.

So far, the bond money has been used to build three schools Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary School and Audie Murphy Middle School on post and Union Grove Middle School in Harker Heights, all of which opened this fall.

Bond money also financed the expansion of four middle schools: Palo Alto, Eastern Hills, Rancier and Nolan. Nine elementary schools had partial or total roof replacements from the bond funds, and 10 schools had partial or total replacement of air-conditioning systems.

Three more elementary schools Timber Ridge, Saegert Ranch and Skipcha will finish off the bond funds. They are costing between $9 million and $14 million each. Walker said the school district has gotten most of what it planned out of the bond money.

All in all, we were pretty on-target with what we were anticipating, he said.

Timber Ridge Elementary, off Chantz Drive, will open its doors to students in fall 2005, offering some relief to the packed Cedar Valley Elementary School.

Saegert Ranch Elementary, off W.S. Young Drive and south of Stan Schlueter Loop, may start construction in a few weeks, said KISD Superintendent Dr. Charles Patterson.

Skipcha Elementary, southeast of Union Grove Middle, will help relieve Mountain View Elementary, which is pushing 1,000 students. Saegert and Skipcha will open fall 2006.

The 2002 bond money may have run out, but the need for more facilities in KISD has not. Several more schools make up KISDs long-term facilities plan.

The school district is currently revamping its plan to include the effect that 5,000 additional troops will have. Walker said the preliminary estimates for the future needs of facilities for KISD to take care of the projected growth is in the neighborhood of $200 million.

Patterson said KISD is expecting more children in the Clarke Elementary area, due to the conversion of housing on Fort Hood in the Comanche 1 and 2 area into four-bedroom homes.

It will result in far more students than we can handle at Clarke or Duncan (Elementary), Patterson said.

There isnt enough land in the area to build a new complete elementary school, he said, but there is enough room to add a primary school to Clarke. Prekindergarten through second-graders will attend Clarke Primary, and third- through fifth-graders will stay at Clarke. The schools will be connected by walkways and will share a principal. Patterson said work on the Clarke Primary site, which may cost $10.1 million, may start within the next three months.

Another project in the works on post involves Meadows Elementary School. Meadows, which is more than 50 years old, requires some major renovations. Patterson said he is currently working with Fort Hood on a possible site for a Meadows replacement, which is slated to cost about $13.8 million.

Patterson said hes working on securing federal funding for the Clarke and Meadows projects. He said since the need for new facilities stemmed from renovations to post housing, the federal government should help financially.

The long-term plan also includes possibly two middle schools, a fifth high school and a new career and technology academy between now and 2010.

The school districts growth and constant need for facilities has had an effect on the physical size of schools as well. The schools in the long-term plan will be a little larger than what Killeen is used to.

KISD elementary school buildings have a capacity of 800 students now, but plans for the future schools will accommodate 1,000 students each. Middle school building size will also increase from 800 to a 1,200-student capacity.

With facility needs growing, we have to make the most of our money, Patterson said.

KISD has started its search for capital project funds at home, by tightening its budget. The school board asked administration to cut $10 million from the 2004-05 budget. Administration answered with $8.4 million in cuts. The board approved the budget, but issued a directive to keep cutting.

Thats where we have to start, Walker said. Then we have to seek additional funding sources.

Walker said KISD will turn over every leaf, taking the search for funds to Washington, D.C., and Austin. Though its an unpopular topic, he said, another bond issue would be a funding option.

Contact Wendy Gragg at wgragg@kdhnews.com

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