AP NEWS

Cy-Fair ISD committee discusses financial impacts of potential bond proposal

January 26, 2019

The future of Cy-Fair ISD for years to come is being planned by the Long-Range Planning Committee, which discussed the financial impacts of a proposed future bond program during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24.

The LRPC — consisting of community members, students and staff — was formed in November 2018 to identify district needs and formulate a bond program recommendation to present to the CFISD school board on Feb. 4.

On Feb. 11, the board of trustees will consider calling a bond election based on the LRPC recommendations. If the school board calls for a referendum, the bond election would be held on May 4, in a joint election with Harris County.

Julie Hinaman, community co-chair for the LRPC, said the committee was provided data from the district in order to guide their planning.

“They did an in-depth facility assessment looking at student population growth, asset management, like which assets were aging out toward the end of their life cycle, and then using that data, they brought that to us so we could use it to come up with recommendations,” she said.

Voters passed CFISD’s last bond in 2014 for $1.2 billion. According to a committee presentation, the district has entered Phase 6 of 2014 bond project implementation, which includes several school renovation projects scheduled for completion between 2020 and 2021. The LRPC is currently planning for the future of CFISD into 2025.

Any plans or projected financial impacts remain tentative until projects recieve official approval from the school board.

“[CFISD is] spreading this investment over five or six years,” Hinaman said. “If something needs to be replaced in five years, it’s helpful to know that now and plan it now rather than waiting for the air condition to go out in a school and then try to fix it, because the cost would be higher.”

In previous meetings about the 2019 bond proposal, the LRPC discussed recommendations for different areas of CFISD including improvements to transportation, facilities, safety and technology.

Transportation

The LRPC is considering $88.1 million in possible transportation projects. Among the projects is a nearly $35 million northwest transportation center as the district anticipates the addition of 25 bus routes by 2025. The estimated cost of 25 additional school buses is about $2.7 million, according to district documents.

Hinaman said the additional buses are needed to match the growth of the district.

“We have a very efficient transportation system but as we increase student population we need more buses to get those additional kids to the school,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize that we cannot use our regular [maintenance and operations] budget to pay for things like facilities and buses and police cars and capital assets. The only way we can have funding for those types of assets is through bond money.”

The committee may also recommend changing the replacement cycle for school buses from 15 years to 12 years in order to update buses with safety features like three-point seatbelts. The projected cost for a 12-year cycle replacement of 442 district school buses is approximately $48.5 million.

Facilities

The committee included several proposed projects in their recommendation based on a district facilities assessment, including the construction of a performance arts center by 2020, as well as exhibition center additions by 2023. Building a new instructional support center by 2022 was also among the proposed projects, along with the repurposing of the original ISC facility on Jones Road by 2023.

Combined, the proposed projects could cost an estimated $194.2 million.

Hinaman said growing the district’s facilities with the student population is a key goal for the committee.

“As the school district grows, so grows the community,” she said. “Businesses and families move to Cypress-Fairbanks because we have a strong and healthy local school district.”

Safety

The district-wide safety and security improvement projects being considered for inclusion in the LRPC’s recommendation so far total approximately $303.5 million.

Hinaman said the committee received an assessment of safety needs from an outside firm before deciding how to proceed. Items have been ranked by priority according to LRPC documents and include hardening main front desks, upgrading intrusion detection panels, and adding more lockdown buttons and metal detectors.

The plan also includes implementing impact-resistant glass on ground-level glass doors, installing a video intercom and replacing radios and vehicles for the CFISD Police Department.

Technology

Several new technology initiatives, totaling an estimated $239.1 million, were included among the committee’s potential recommendations, according to district documents. The overall plan is focused on instructional technology, including higher network speed, wireless displays, high school language labs and lending devices for libraries.

“Technology is critical to classroom instruction and so we’re looking at updating and continuing to invest in technology that supports classroom instruction,” Hinaman said. “Where a bus has a life cycle of 12 years, technology really has a life cycle of five years. We looked at updating the technology in the classroom every five years and adding more as needed.”

Hinaman said the committee is taking cost to taxpayers seriously, aiming for the least negative impact possible.

“Our goal is that it would be minimal and that what we do recommend to the board, and if they do call a bond election, is that it’s for items that truly are needed to support the growth in our student population, asset protection and safety and security,” she said.

chevall.pryce@chron.com