WOODWAY, Texas (KWTX) Higher taxes could be on the way for homeowners in the Midway Independent School District to help pay for the next decade of projected growth.
(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
At their meeting Tuesday night, Midway ISD's Board of Trustees were presented with a plan to tackle the school district's anticipated growth through 2028 by its Momentum Facility Study Committee--a diverse group of about 40 parents, educators, business leaders, retirees and community members--which recommended a bond package of $177,000,000.
"This has nothing to do with wants and luxury and fun things, this is absolutely necessary, we are at capacity," said Scott Bland, committee spokesperson. "We're educating students in portable facilities, we've got teachers that are floating around they don't have their own classrooms because we just don't have the room, and that's just not good for our students on any level."
The facility committee has been meeting since October to decide how to manage future growth for the district.
"We charged them with looking at our growth for the next ten years, we also charged them with meeting our academic goals for student achievement," said Traci Marlin, Public Information Officer for Midway ISD. "I think that's really important to consider is they are looking at what's best for students in every way, not just the square space that they're standing or sitting in, but what equipment and facilities do they need."
By 2028, Midway ISD's enrollment of almost 8,070 students is projected to spike about 32% to 10,700.
However, the district currently only has capacity for about 9,200 students.
"I think those estimates are conservative," said Bland. "The population of Midway ISD is growing, and it's not just growing, it's growing exponentially and our facilities cannot keep up."
The accommodate for the growth, the committee is suggesting the district build a new elementary school and switch to a traditional middle school model of grades 6-8: that means the district would no longer have intermediate schools.
Although grade reconfiguration was one of the biggest sticking points, committee members said, in the end, they agreed it was more cost effective, aligned better with the state curriculum, there would be less commuting for families, better family engagement, greater bonds forged between students and staff, and it would create more opportunities for students.
"We believe in all the schools here and we recognize the growth that is happening throughout the district - which is a good thing - it shows that Midway is a destination district where people want to come and live and educate their children," said Stacey Voigt, committee member and Principal at South Bosque Elementary School. "But we also know that there's definitely a need for more rooms to educate our students in a safe and secure environment."
Woodgate Intermediate would be turned into an elementary school, and River Valley Intermediate would be turned into a Middle School.
In total, Midway would have eleven schools: eight elementary schools feeding into two middle schools, feeding into one high school.
Committee officials estimate the cost of building a new elementary school would be about $40,000,000, converting Woodgate would be about $18,000,000, Renovating Midway Middle School would be about $17,600,000, expanding River Valley Intermediate would be about $30,000,000 and a Career & Technical Education (CTE) addition at Midway High School would be about $42,800,000: a total of almost $148,000,000 in growth projects alone.
"You can't keep putting sand in the sock - eventually the sock's gonna break," said Bland.
While growth accounts for 84% of the recommended bond package, the rest of the $177,000,000 would be dedicated to other areas.
"After eight months, we feel like this is what is best for our students," said committee member Carly Webb. "It makes the most sense to put it all together now."
There would be $2,800,000 in Fine Arts upgrades, $13,600,000 in athletics expansions, $4,500,000 in technology data center projects, and $8,000,000 in capital improvements by replacing roofs and HVAC systems.
"These are necessities, we've got facilities right now that are grossly dangerous in terms of safety and security of our students," said Bland. "That $177,000,000, it seems tremendous, it's a tremendous number, but I think that is well-worth it for the safety and security of our students."
Committee members said they were "united" in recommending the board call for a bond election where, for the average homeowner, the tax rate increase of $0.0382 would have a monthly impact of $7.19, committee members say, and it would be capped for citizens 65 and over who've filed homestead exemptions.
"When you look at it as relatively $71 per year, that really is, for most families, like one trip to the grocery store a month," said Voigt. "We feel like we were being very economical and very in-tune with what we felt like our community could afford."
District officials emphasized no decisions had been made, only recommendations.
School board members will have the summer to mull over the committee's ideas and suggestions.
"I really wish everyone in the community could be exposed to the data and the numbers that we were exposed to, and if the Board of Trustees decide to go forward with this, that's the next job of our committee is to educate the voters on the things we've seen the last eight months," said Bland.
If the board decides to call for a bond election for the Nov. 5 ballot, it must do so by Aug. 19.
If voters approve it, district officials said changes could start being seen by 2022.
District finance officials said, without raising the tax rate, Midway's current bond capacity was $126,000,000.
Of the 18 school districts in McLennan County, Midway ISD's tax rate is the sixth lowest.
However, the $0.0382 tax increase would move the district closer to the middle of the pack, sliding in between McGregor and China Spring ISDs.
Officials say, either way, redistricting is inevitable.