- Those multipurpose facilities (aka indoor practice fields for athletics, band, etc.) are surprisingly popular, not just at Pearce, but at Lake Highlands and Berkner as well.
Oh, there will be objections from some neighbors when they realize they will be able to see the big new facilities from their own houses. And there are questions about why they cost so much -- $20 million each, versus a reported $5 million for a facility at Highland Park ISD. Apples and oranges? Confident estimate or a padded, worst-case scenario? Dunno. The RISD needs to do a better job of publishing comparisons of features and cost between what's proposed for the RISD versus the other 50 or so facilities in north Texas.
But overall, the people who bothered to come out and speak to this issue were not just open to the idea of building indoor practice fields but were almost passionate about the perceived need. So, I surrender. I began this process assuming the multipurpose practice fields had little chance of making the board's final cut of what will go to the voters and even less chance of winning voter approval. Now, I believe they should at least be on the ballot as a separate line item for the voters to decide themselves. I won't be surprised if the voters approve them.
- The bond is woefully lacking in capacity expansion for enrollment growth. There is over $400 million proposed in this bond, but only 45 or so new classrooms will be constructed from all that money.
To be fair, district administrators say a new outside study of projected enrollment growth is due in January, in time to adjust the bond package if the study shows a need for more new construction. But if you just look at historical trend lines, it's a safe bet that the study will conclude that enrollment growth in some areas will require more classrooms than what the bond already supports. Come January, the school board will likely be faced with the need to add more money to the bond for additional classroom construction. If they ignore that need they risk people voting against the whole bond package in retaliation. If they address the need they either blow up the total size of the bond package or have to cut elsewhere. Either way, some will accuse the district of "bait and switch" and vote "no".
Sadly, it's too late to redesign the proposed bond package presented in these listening tours. We'll just have to wait for January and then deal with the angst created by whatever changes are needed.
- I originally expected the school board to insist that the bond proposal be whittled down to keep within the $235 million cap that can be carried without needing a tax rate increase. I no longer expect that. In none of the meetings did anyone suggest that the $215 million in maintenance and $59 million in new construction contained fat that could be trimmed to get the whole slimmed down to $235 million. And that doesn't even begin to add in all the enrichment options proposed. So I now believe that it's inevitable that voters are going to be asked to approve a tax rate increase. The only question is how big.
If all of the bond items are placed in a single ballot proposition, the RISD risks giving the voters sticker shock. If that happened and voters rejected everything, it would be a disaster. On the other hand, even if the bond passes, but it contains too much that voters consider unneeded luxuries, that is, if voters feel they need to hold their noses to vote "yes", that would be unfortunate. The only way out of this bind is to break up the bond into several propositions and allow voters themselves to decide just how much of a tax rate increase they can stomach, and for what. I'm not wedded to any particular breakout, but for the sake of discussion, I could see three propositions: one for maintenance, one for new construction, and one for enrichment items; or maybe four, with a completely separate proposition just for the multipurpose facilities. I could see resistance to this idea out of fear that, say, the enrichment items wouldn't pass, but if they can't pass on their own, maybe we just shouldn't have them.
Monday, December 7, 2015
RISD 2016 Bond Tour: Three Takeaways
The Richardson school district (RISD) is conducting a "listening tour" to get community feedback on a proposed 2016 bond package. Meetings were held last week at three high schools and a fourth meeting, at Richardson High School, is scheduled for December 8. The Wheel covered the first meeting at Pearce High School in an earlier post. Here are my additional takeaways after the first three meetings.