DSISD eyes May 2018 bond for facilities

Accommodation of a rapidly growing student population is pushing Dripping Springs ISD officials to begin planning for its future facility needs.

On Oct. 30, parents and community members toured Dripping Springs High as part of an effort to understand the district’s facility needs in preparation of a possible May 2018 bond referendum.

DSISD’s long-term facilities planning committee, which is open to residents, parents and employees of the district, is expected to provide recommendations for facility improvements and construction by January 2018 to the board of trustees.

The board will, at that time, decide whether to call a bond election in the spring, Drippings Springs Independent School District Superintendent Bruce Gearing said.

The potential bond amounts  brought to an election while taking into account the district’s ability to take on debt are $76.44 million and $87.32 million, said Dan Wegmiller, the district’s financial advisor, from Specialized Public Finance, Inc, in his Oct. 30 presentation.

In the first scenario, the district’s interest and sinking rate (I&S) would stay the same at 35 cents per 100 dollars of a property value.

Funds raised by the I&S tax rate is limited to paying only for the district’s debt due to the construction of new facilities, renovations and purchase of “big ticket” items like school buses and land, said Elaine Cogburn, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.

In the second scenario, the I&S rate would go up one cent to 36 cents per $100 valuation, according to presentation documents.

Cogburn said the scenarios provide information, but the committee ultimately will decide what the district’s facility needs are, whether they want to recommend a bond at all, and what the amount will be.  

The last bond issued by the district was in 2014 for $92.14 million. DSISD’s 2014 bond paid for construction of Sycamore Springs Elementary and Middle School, the new Tiger Stadium on campus, the district’s baseball and softball complex, as well as the extension of the Roger Hanks Parkway.

The rapid growth in the area and the pressure it puts on the facilities is the reason for the current assessment and potential bond, Gearing said.  

Using projections of future housing developments and population growth, DSISD projected a student population of 11,032 by 2025. The figure is double the number of students the district currently has enrolled in 2017.

Cogburn said the district opens new schools when existing schools are at 120 percent of their capacity.

Dripping Springs High School is projected to reach 120 percent capacity by 2020.

DSISD officials project Dripping Springs, Walnut Springs and Sycamore Springs Elementary Schoools will exceed 120 percent by 2022.

In this potential bond, Cogburn said she projects funds being used for a new elementary school, an expansion of the high school and other renovation projects.

Cogburn said the potential bond may include a new district administration building, which she said could be a better fit than the school building the district currently occupies.

The district has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the city of Dripping Springs for the construction of the Town Center.

The project is a complex to include a new city hall, library and district administration building on the plot of land where the current administration building stands, said Keenan Smith, architect on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) committee, during his presentation.

If the city council and district approve of the TIRZ project, the district would still be responsible for the cost of the district administration building, Gearing said.

One of the advantages to the district for being part of Town Center is that the TIRZ project would pay for portions of the infrastructure costs, such as roads and other needs, Gearing said.

In the circumstance that the plan does not go through, he asked the committee addressing the administration building to consider a plan for a stand-alone building.

The committee is expected to meet next at Dripping Springs Elementary School on Nov. 13.

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