After four months of research, a recommendation of a bond totaling $132 million was proposed to the Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees to consider for a possible May bond election.
The DSISD bond steering committee presented its recommendation during a special meeting Jan. 29. The bond money will go toward updating schools and accommodating growth in the district.
The district is growing by 7.24 percent each year, according to officials. The current capacity of facilities is 7,350 students, and enrollment is expected to exceed that capacity by 2020. If the growth rate stays consistent, DSISD could reach 12,000 students by 2025, according to district estimates.
Eventually a larger bond package, in the ballpark of $400 million, will be needed in May 2021 in order to address the growth at Dripping Springs High, according to Superintendent Bruce Gearing.
Of the recommendations, the relocation of Walnut Elementary to share a campus with Dripping Springs Middle School was the most contentious. Some board members were concerned with the design of the potential shared campus and with the existing water treatment plant facility.
All designs for the school will be finalized only if there is a call for a bond election.
The committee’s recommendation also included funding for replacement or expansion of a district-owned wastewater treatment facility located at Dripping Springs Middle School. The district created their own facility because the city does not run wastewater services near the middle school.
But the current facility is not big enough to accommodate another 850 students that the elementary school would bring.
The recommendation also allocates funds for the relocation of the DSISD administration building to the current Walnut Springs Elementary campus.
According to officials, DSISD’s administration building is in need of updates and administrators are in need of more space.
DSISD originally partnered with the city and library to work on a communal Town Center Project through the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ). However, the option to move the administration building to Walnut Springs could offer an increase in space.
With the TIRZ, the new administration building would be around 68,000 square feet, but would be outgrown in 10 years. Moving to Walnut Spring would give the administration 103,000 square feet and more time to grow.
There is a difference of about $9 million between the projects. Moving to Walnut Springs is the more expensive option, but also could offer a longer-term solution, according to Gearing.
If the administration building were to move, DSISD would potentially still be involved with TIRZ.
“We’re still a partner in the process because we own this land, and we would like to push that process forward. That does generate the possibility, at some point in time, for the district to earn revenue from some kind of private-public partnership because of the lease of the land.” Gearing said. “That process isn’t far enough along to stand to know what that looks like yet.”
The board will vote on the final bond recommendation on Feb. 12, but the board could call special meetings to further discuss any issues.