The Killeen Independent School District is proposing a school bond that could ask taxpayers to pay around $340 million, according to recent estimates from the district.
In May 2018, the district had sought, and received, a combined $426 million from taxpayers on two bond votes.
One of the biggest reasons for the district seeking another round of money in the next election is to accommodate growth and to eliminate portable buildings at elementary schools, a goal that was not accomplished in the first bond.
KISD Superintendent John Craft and the district’s demographer Jeff Heckathorn have estimated a 1% growth rate per year for the district that would add just under 5,000 total new students to KISD over the next 10 years. That would put the district’s total population over 50,000 students. Around 2,500 of the 5,000 students would be elementary school students, around 1,000 would be middle school students and around 1,200 would be high school students, according to the district’s projections.
Potential projects for the new bond include three new elementary schools, a new middle school, the rebuilding or renovation of Harker Heights Elementary School and Peebles Elementary School and the renovation of Manor Middle School and Ellison High School as instructional projects.
Craft said the main goal of the bond is eliminating portable classrooms at elementary schools by building the three new elementary schools.
The project list also includes upgrading the athletic stadiums for Shoemaker, Harker Heights and Ellison high schools but that would be voted on separately from the instructional projects, according to Craft.
Heckathorn said the suggested projects in the proposed bond are setting the district up to handle the growth that he expects.
“I think in the context of all the propositions that have been included in this bond, that’s setting it up so that we will be able to handle that (the almost 5,000 new students over 10 years) plus more,” said Heckathorn, who is coordinator for the district’s Public Education Information Management System, “As a district, we’re trying to get ourselves prepared to not only handle what we have but to have enough room to handle any additional growth without needing to go add more structures or more rooms.”
The three elementary schools and the one middle school would make a huge difference, according to Heckathorn. The schools would set up the district to handle the current population and the growth that is expected over the next 10 years, Heckathorn said.
SOURCE OF ESTIMATES
Heckathorn said in an interview with the Herald on Nov. 21 that most of his projections for the 1% growth rate came from looking at the historical growth rate of the district.
“You can see by the growth rate charts that even though we have a steady incline of growth in our district, the growth rate from year to year fluctuates, and so there is a lot of up and down business to it,” Heckathorn said.
In 2015/2016, the growth rate for the district was 1.16% and in 2019/2020 the growth rate was 0.89%. In the three years between, the growth rate numbers were 0.98%, 1.19% and 1.61%, according to a presentation from the district at both bond steering committee meetings. Heckathorn said the numbers over the last five years are more indicative of what he expects for the district so he used those numbers to get the 1% estimated growth rate over the next 10 years.
Craft has said that Heckathorn normally gets within 100 students every year on his population estimate for the district. Heckathorn said, however, that growth can go up or down each year and nothing is set in stone.
The direction of growth of the district is expected to go into south Killeen, according to Heckathorn.
Three spots were designated by Heckathorn and the district as high growth area for the future. One of them is in southern Harker Heights by Warriors Path, one is around Stagecoach Road and Chaparral Road in south Killeen and the third is the Highway 195 corridor.
Multiple developers, like the Pursers, and the Whitis group have purchased land near Chaparral Road and that sets up that area for growth in the future, according to Heckathorn.
The locations of the new potential schools are unknown at this time, according to the district.
Students from the military are becoming a smaller portion of total KISD growth.
Heckathorn said the federally connected population is staying about the same while the non-federally connected population continues to increase.
That can affect federal funding based on the percentage of military in the school population.
Craft has said on multiple occasions the district could lose federal aid in the near future. The district must have at least 35% federally connected students in its population to continue receiving heavy impact aid. The district currently receives around $47 million a year from impact aid. That number could begin to decrease and by 2022 the district would receive 90% of heavy impact aid, 85% the next year and 80% the year after before the district no longer receives heavy impact aid, according to a presentation from the district.
Birth rate exceeding death rate is one of the reasons for the non-military growth, according to Heckathorn, but he does not know exactly where the growth is coming from.