The city of Killeen could float a voter-approved bond as early as May 2018 as a companion to the Killeen Independent School District’s plan to issue up to $700 million in debt, according to City Council discussion Tuesday.
Following a presentation to the council from KISD Superintendent John Craft on the progress of the district’s bond proposal, City Manager Ron Olson said the city and district had been in discussion for months to “link votes” for two separate bond issues.
“In my mind, they are companion issues,” Olson said. “You are not doing schools without the infrastructure to reach those schools. If they move forward with a bond, we need to move forward with a bond.”
The district’s deadline to place the bond on the May 5 general ballot is Feb. 13.
The school district is currently holding a series of bond steering committee meetings to prioritize future projects to be included in the debt issue, including a sixth high school and a number of elementary and high schools.
Top-end estimates for the bond have reached $700 million, but Craft told the council the most expensive scenario under consideration puts the bond at around $500 million.
The city explicitly mentioned around $46 million in road infrastructure improvements that would be necessary to accommodate increased traffic to new schools in the southern section of Killeen around Chaparral and Featherline roads.
The project with the highest priority, Director of Public Works David Olson said, is the expansion of Chaparral Road from a two-lane county road to a five-lane thoroughfare. By current estimates, the road can only accommodate about a half of the expected car traffic, David Olson said.
The tentative completion date for the possible new high school — located near the corner of Chaparral and Featherline roads — is fall 2022.
The same night, the city discussed new financial policies that would formalize the city’s practice of only issuing debt with a corresponding property tax rate increase and limiting the amount of property tax dedicated to debt service.
A bond issue would potentially violate the second stipulation, devoting more Killeen taxpayer money to debt service while raising residents’ property tax rate.
“We’re going to speak double talk to our citizens,” Councilman Jim Kilpatrick said.
While council members inquired about possible funds from Bell County and the federal government that could help cover the needed improvements, Councilman Jonathan Okray said the council needed to be decisive and be prepared to commit financially to the southern outskirts of the city.
“Ultimately, who’s going to be pay for all this? We are,” Okray said. “We can dance around this all we want, but we really need to nail down how we’re going to fund it without anyone else.”
In other business, the council:
Reached a 5-2 consensus to issue a Request for Proposal to outsource its solid waste department after City Manager Ron Olson said the department was financially competitive with outside industry. The council originally tabled a resolution to court private proposals for the service in March after Olson asked for time to seek efficiencies in the program.
Reached a 4-3 consensus to lower its operational fund balance from 22-25 percent to 18-22 percent in order to free up funds for capital improvement projects in the city budget. The council hurriedly changed the policy as part of its financial policy discussion, potentially freeing millions in the current budget for one-time capital projects expenditures.
Postponed votes on a state body-armor grant outfitting 225 Killeen police officers.
The Herald will follow all of these stories in the coming days.