HISD Bond 2017
The Howe ISD school board has voted unanimously to call a $17 million bond election in November of 2017.
The decision to call the election was based off a recommendation from a Facilities Planning Committee comprised of parents, staff members and other district stakeholders. According to district projections, Howe ISD is expected to grow by 800 students in 10 years. The district's elementary and middle schools are projected to be over capacity by the 2018-19 school year.
The $17 million bond proposal includes the construction of phase I of a new elementary school with a capacity of 400 students. The preliminary plan is for this new campus to house grades Pre-K through Second. As our enrollment continues to grow, we intend to construct Phase II to complete the Pre-K through Five campus. At that point in time, we will have two Pre-K – 5th grade elementary schools in order to accommodate the district’s enrollment growth.
If the bond is approved, taxpayers would see a tax rate increase of 22 cents beginning in 2018, which would result in an annual increase of approximately $286 on a $150,000 home.
Public meetings to discuss the proposed bond are scheduled for the following dates at the Howe Elementary/Middle School Cafeteria beginning at 7:00 p.m.: Tuesday September 5, Monday September 11, and Thursday September 21. Additional meetings may also be scheduled for October.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why has Howe ISD proposed a $17 million bond election for a new school?
Howe ISD enrollment grew from 1,048 last August to 1,137 this year. That is an increase of 89 students, or 8.5%. The Elementary School enrollment went from 420 to 469 over the same period. That is an increase of 49 students, or 11.7%.
What are our options to accommodate the new students?
Four options were considered: bringing in portable buildings, adding on to the elementary school, renovating the old middle school/administration building, or constructing a new school. A committee comprised of parents, staff, and community members considered these options and ultimately chose to recommend a new school. They decided against portables or adding on to the elementary because of the limited core capacity at the current elementary and middle schools (cafeteria, parking, and drop-off/pick-up traffic issues). The elementary/middle school cafeteria begins serving lunch at 10:30 and ends at 1:35, and they did not feel like it was appropriate to extend lunch beyond those times to serve additional students. Also, there was concern that the traffic in the parking lot and around the campus is becoming a safety issue.
Why don’t we renovate what we have instead of building a new school?
The committee considered renovating the old middle school, but the age and condition of the building, limited classroom capacity (it only has 11 classrooms), and the extent necessary to bring the building to current ADA and building codes made it cost-prohibitive. It was also noted that a 4 acre site is inadequate for a 750 student capacity building with enough bus lanes, parent drop-off/pick-up, and staff and visitor parking.
What is a bond capacity?
Bond capacity for a school district is similar to a mortgage limit for a homeowner. The mortgage company will only approve a loan for an amount that a homeowner can afford based on your current debt, income and assets. For a school district, state law caps the maximum debt service tax rate that a district can levy at 50 cents. Essentially, a district’s bond capacity is limited to the amount that a 50 cent tax rate will generate to pay an annual bond payment, based on its property values (this is our income). Therefore, based on our property values, existing debt, and assets, Howe ISD’s current bond capacity is approximately $19 million. As our property values increase and we pay off existing debt, that number will increase.
Why are we only building a Primary Campus rather than a full Elementary School?
This answer is two-fold:
The committee wanted to stay below the 50 cent tax rate and leave some bonding capacity for future projects. Because the district’s bond capacity is only $19 million, the cost of a Pre-K – 5 elementary or 6 – 8 middle school would have exceeded the bond capacity.
The committee felt that it would be more fiscally prudent to build what the district needed now with Phase I and complete Phase II when enrollment necessitated additional classrooms. However, it should be noted that the proposed primary campus is 52,000 square feet with 20 classrooms, which is comparable to the size of the current elementary school with 22 classrooms.
What is the plan for future configuration of the campuses?
If the bond passes, the new building would house grades Pre-K through 2nd. The current elementary building would house grades 3rd – 5th, and the middle school would house grades 6th -8th. This would allow some room for growth at all three campuses.
How much debt do we currently have?
Howe ISD currently owes $10,037,850, the majority of which is for the 1998/99 bonds to build Howe High School. This debt is scheduled to be paid off in 2029.