To learn more about the 2019 KISD Bond Proposal, Timber Creek Talon reporters sat down with Keller ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick Westfall and asked about how the bond would affect students at Timber Creek, across Keller ISD, and the nearby community as a whole.
In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. It is essentially a contract between two parties. In the case of the proposed 2019 KISD Bond, KISD plans to issue bonds in order to borrow money. To fulfill this contract, at some point in the future, KISD will pay back the money to those who purchased bonds.
According to the Keller ISD Website, projects included in the 2019 Bond Proposal in addition to their estimated costs include:
- District-Wide Safety & Security Upgrades | $19,679,692
- District-Wide Mechanical & Life Safety Upgrades | $30,800,715
- District-Wide Technology Upgrades | $24,328,980
- Florence Elementary School Replacement | $30,091,373
- Heritage Elementary School Replacement | $30,091,373
- Parkview Elementary School Replacement | $33,521,597
- Whitley Road Elementary School Replacement | $32,328,758
- Fossil Hill Middle School Additions & Renovations | $18,321,041
- Keller Middle School Additions & Renovations | $25,414,950
- Indoor Extra-Curricular Program Facilities at High Schools | $48,626,734
- New Industrial Trades and Agriscience Center | $21,509,217
According to the district, the following elements are planned for TCHS
Safety and security upgrades to the campus would include:
- Raptor Scanner Upgrades
- Vestibule Check-In System
- Security Vestibule Rework
- Ballistic Film on Glazing at Strategic Locations
- Access Controls Expansion and Upgrades
- Additional Security Cameras
- Classroom Intercom Upgrades
Technology upgrades to the campus would include:
- Primary Power and UPS Upgrades in MDF/IDF
- New HVAC in MDF and IDF rooms
- Technology Hardware Replacement
- Expand/Upgrade Student and Staff technology devices
Fine arts improvements to the campus would include:
- Auditorium Lighting Improvements
- Sound System Improvements
- Rigging System Improvements
Additionally, the Bond would pay for an indoor extra-curricular program facility on campus.
The bond doesn’t just affect this campus, it all 42 in the district. Some projects for other campus include but are not limited to entire essential replacements for “Primary Power” and “Fire Alarm systems” for Fossil Ridge and Keller High School. Other safety and security, and technological upgrades are also in the plan for all high school campuses including Central. Additionally, each campus will also receive the similar Fine Art improvements as Timber Creek.
In regards to the Keller ISD Intermediate and Middle schools they will also benefit according to the 2019 Bond. The Intermediate schools, in particular, will be adding a counsiling Crisis Center along with primary power replacement and new air regulating units. The Middle schools will be able to enjoy several new safety and technical upgrades similar to the high schools. Older middle school such as Fossil Middle School and Keller Middle School will be having “Fine Arts Additions and Renovations, Core Academic Renovations, Special Education Classroom Renovations, and Capital Improvements.”
The bond also calls for four elementary schools to be replaced, as was mentioned earlier, because this is more cost effective than continually replacing and upgrading each item individually. Each elementary school will receive safety and technological upgrades that include but are not restricted to “Additional Security Cameras, Ballistic Film on Glazing at Strategic Locations, HVAC Upgrades/Additions, and Primary Power and UPS Upgrades.”
Click here for a layout of how the bond will affect every school in the district.
Currently, specific completion and implementation dates for the Bond projects have not yet been determined, according to the KISD webpage.
Furthermore, the scope of construction on the “larger capital projects will be determined by the final design of the structures, and that design work would not begin until after the passage of the Bond,” according to the same website.
The new construction projects are estimated to take close to 18 months to complete, with the phased construction projects taking slightly longer. Should the bond pass, it is expected that the new Florence Elementary and Heritage Elementary campuses would be open in August 2021, while the new Parkview Elementary and Whitley Road Elementary would open in August 2022.
The Keller ISD tax rate is broken into two parts; Maintenance and Operations (M&O), and Interest and Sinking (I&S) rates. The M&O part of the tax rate is currently $1.0683 per $100 property value while the I&S rate is $0.34. The M&O rate goes towards teacher salaries and cost of operating a school whereas the I&S rate goes toward paying off the debt and interest of the debt. The money for the 2019 bond will incur Keller ISD into more debt that will be paid off at a later date, replicating the current U.S. debt. The bond will not raise the tax rate but rather lengthen the amount of time to pay.
People who oppose the bond for financial reasons are generally in one of two groups; debt or property taxes. Those who oppose the bond due to debt have valid concern in that it will increase the debt and lengthen the amount of time to pay it off as was stated above, however those who are opposed to the bond due to property taxes are not entirely correct in their concerns. Keller ISD does not control the property tax and how that affects the Keller ISD tax rate. The Tarrant County Appraiser is the one who gives educated estimates for the value of homes and if they go up or down.
“We control the tax rate, but think about it as an algebra equation. There’s two variables in it: ours, and the appraisers variable. We’re holding ours constant, so ours is no longer a variable. Ours isn’t moving, but the appraiser might/can move their part of it,” Superintendent Dr. Rick Westfall told Timber Creek Talon reporters during the Oct. 10 group interview. “We’re telling people, we’re not going to move ours.”
Regardless of how they estimate their part and deem it to affect the school district’s tax rate, Keller ISD cannot change the tax rate without going through a vote where the residents within Keller ISD will use their voices.
Since Keller ISD does not have jurisdiction over the property taxes of housing within the area, the execution of the Bond would not raise the KISD property tax rate. Conservative estimates project that KISD can sell $315 million in bonds, spread out over the next three years, and make payments on its debt without the need to raise its tax rate.
“In the last four to five years, taxable, appraised growth — that doesn’t mean residential. Commercial, too — has been anywhere from nine to 12-percent in this area. The last couple years has been about nine, so we can anticipate probably about a nine-percent increase. But again, that’s not necessarily residential growth,” Westfall said. “You see new commercial [buildings] being built along I-35 and Alliance corridor. So when I say growth, I mean any kind of growth, not just housing growth.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Early Voting will take place from Oct. 21 through Nov. 1. Click here to be directed to the early voting poll locations. Click here to be directed to the election day voting locations.
Anyone registered to vote within the Keller Independent School District is eligible to vote in the 2019 KISD Bond Election. Additionally, anyone that resides within KISD, pays KISD taxes, and are registered to vote at that address, are eligible to vote in the Bond Election. Voting is not restricted by city affiliation, as KISD’s boundaries surround parts of nine different cities; simply, one does not have to live within the city of Keller to be eligible to vote.
For example, if one lives in the City of Fort Worth and are zoned for a Keller ISD school, they are eligible to vote.
On the General Election ballot, the language for the Keller ISD Bond Proposition will read as follows:
“The issuance of $315,000,000 of bonds by the Keller Independent School District for the acquisition, construction, renovation and equipment of school facilities in the District. Taxes sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds will be imposed.”
Voters will then be given the option to select “For” or “Against.” The ballot language reflects the $315 million that will be brought in to fund the projects identified by the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee, and while the second sentence mentions taxes imposed, Keller ISD has the capacity to pay the principal and interest on the bonds without raising its tax rate and has publicly and privately committed to not raise the rate.
According to Westfall, if the bond passes and the district runs into a potential construction issue, the bond has planned for architectural “contingency dollars.”
“Sometimes you come in under budget. Most times there’s going to be unanticipated expenses. And that’s the reason why you have a line item in any construction budget, or any kind of upgrade budget as a contingency line item,” Westfall told Talon reporters.
Another situation the bond has planned for are “escalation costs,” which essentially is a safeguard against the possible inflation or deflation in the economy, so that the district won’t run out of bond money during a project.
“So just as an example, one of the things in the bond is technology upgrades. Well, technology upgrades don’t take a lot in the sense of years to design because you’re not building a building,” Westfall said. “So if you consider that if the bond passes, it takes a couple months to actually get the money from the bond after the sale of the bonds. In theory, you can start going out and buying the things that are required for technology upgrades pretty much immediately. So there’s not a lot of escalation built into those kinds of numbers. It’s the projects that take a year or two or multiple years that will have escalation built in.”
Westfall explained that the district will do their “very best to find money to keep things running in a way that keeps the building suitable for kids” in regard to the four schools that are proposed for replacement in the bond. The other plans that the bond advocated for will be put on hold until further notice and a plausible way to pay for them become available. These funds will be taken from the operating budget and can be expected to put a large dent in it.
Westfall and the other Keller ISD administrators plan to find a way to keep kids in school and in a suitable environment if the bond doesn’t pass, whether it be through trying to work around the budget for maintenance and improvement of schools, or otherwise.
SOURCES AND RESEARCH NOTES:
This story represents the combined efforts of multiple Timber Creek Talon reporters and editors, including Editor in Chief Brooke Boyer, News Editor Serena Shabout and others. Talon reporters used information provided by the district on their official Bond 2019 webpages (https://www.kellerisd.net/bond), district flyers and handouts, and research done by opposition groups. Talon conducted an interview with Keller ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick Westfall on Oct. 10 about the Bond and other district topics. Special thanks to Daniel Comiskey for background knowledge on tax rates.