Both the Midway and West school districts will be able to expand their facilities to meet their growing enrollment numbers with the passage of the two districts’ bond packages Tuesday.
The Midway Independent School District’s $148 million bond package passed with 65.49% of the vote, or 4,415 of 6,741 votes, according to unofficial election results from the McLennan County Elections Office.
Midway ISD Superintendent George Kazanas said in a statement that the creation of the bond package was a community effort and its approval shows the community’s support for the district and its students.
“We will work hard to deliver the community’s vision by building and renovating our facilities in a way that’s focused on student learning and sound financial practices,” Kazanas said. “We’ll have the new schools and space we need to accommodate the growth in our area, and our facilities will be a source of pride for our students and staff.”
The passage of the bond results in a 1-cent decrease in the district’s tax rate per $100 of property value, setting the rate at $1.24. Last year’s tax rate was $1.32.
The board was able to reduce the tax rate because of increases in student enrollment and taxable assessed values, according to the bond website. Housing growth and industrial business development have led to rising property values, which have increased the amount of revenue the district collects. The increased revenues will allow new debt to be issued and still leave room for the board to lower the tax rate.
The tax rate decrease will take effect in August 2020. The 1-cent tax rate reduction amounts to about $20 in savings a year for the average MISD homeowner.
A Midway ISD facility study committee recommended May 21 that the school board call a Nov. 5 bond election for $177 million to address the needs of the growing school district.
The district of about 8,200 students is expected to surge to 10,700 in 10 years, according to the facility committee’s estimates.
Over several meetings, trustees deliberated on how to call for a bond election to address district’s needs without raising the tax rate, which already is being reduced by 7 cents per $100 of property value under the state’s new school finance reform law.
Board members settled on the $148 million bond package because it allows the district to execute the top eight bond projects identified by the facility committee and to offer taxpayers some tax relief.
The eight projects ranked in order of importance by the facility committee include:
- Converting Woodgate Intermediate School into an elementary school — $13.1M
- Converting River Valley Intermediate School into a middle school — $43.1M
- Expanding the Midway High School career and technical education program — $31.5M
- Replacing roofs for five buildings — $3.3M
- Renovating Midway Middle School — $13.2M
- Replacing HVAC systems at three campuses — $3.7M
- Constructing a new elementary school — $38.5M
- Renovating the district’s technology center — $1.6M.
The items that were cut from the initial bond package include expanding high school athletics locker rooms to accommodate student growth, adding a parking lot to the high school, renovating the performing arts center, and purchasing instruments, equipment and storage for the fine arts programs at the middle and high schools.
Construction on the bond projects could begin as early as spring 2021, with the construction of a new elementary school in Hewitt and the conversions of River Valley and Woodgate, according to the bond website. The addition to Midway High School’s CTE program would begin in spring 2022 and be ready for the 2023-24 school year.
A year after a similar proposition failed, the West Independent School District’s $21.5 million bond issue to replace its only elementary school passed with more than 59% of the vote, or 877 votes out of 1,481 total, according to unofficial returns from McLennan and Hill counties. Part of West ISD extends into Hill County.
West ISD Superintendent David Truitt did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday night.
In 2018, voters rejected a $20 million bond issue that would have built a new, 80,000-square-foot elementary school. The bond package failed by 61 votes.
The passage of this year’s bond package will accomplish the final project in rebuilding the district six years after a fertilizer plant explosion devastated the town of almost 2,900. The district opened a new combined high school and middle school facility in 2016.
Built in 1952, West Elementary School currently serves students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, which is two more grade levels than before the blast that killed 15 people in April 2013. The school used to serve prekindergarten through third grade, and an intermediate school served fourth-fifth grades. The explosion changed the grade configuration because it destroyed the intermediate school.
Current enrollment at the school is 597 students. Before the blast in 2013, the campus had 405 students, according to the Texas Education Agency website. That number jumped up to 579 for the 2014-15 school year, when the two other grade levels were added to the campus.
The new school will be about 81,000-square feet with 35 classrooms, enough space for roughly 750 students. West ISD is working to buy 30 acres behind the new high school and athletics facilities so all the schools will be together.
West ISD’s tax rate will increase by 18 cents, to $1.37 per $100 valuation. That will add about $247 a year in taxes for the average homeowner in West ISD, whose home has a taxable value of $137,379, according to the McLennan County Appraisal District.