Two meetings of the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee (CBAC) were held in November (Nov. 6 and 16) to continue the effort began in late September.
The committee will ultimately make a recommendation to the school board trustees and administration about the need for a future bond referendum. If the community feels the bond is needed in 2018, the bond could be on either the May or November 2018 ballots. The current committee schedule assumes that the community will recommend a bond for the May ballot. The plan is for the committee to present the plan to the board in January, meet the Feb. 13 ballot filing date, and have the bond on the May 5 ballot.
This month’s meetings focused on Humble ISD’s Facilities Assessment Report, a “rooftops to flowerbeds” study from PBK Architects, the largest architectural firm in Houston. The report was nearly two years in the making, commissioned in December 2015 at a cost of $300,000 and presented 19 months later, in May 2017, shortly after the new school board trustees were sworn in. Several trustees, including Lapeze and Sitton, remarked during the campaign period that a bond may not be needed in 2018, 2019 or even at all. However, PBK presented the assessment in May 2017 with a May 2018 bond schedule scenario.
In the Facilities Assessment Report, projects are categorized into three divisions. Priority 1 projects are “must do” for critical condition infrastructure, or legal or safety reasons. Priority 2 projects are divided into two categories 2.1 and 2.2, deemed as “should do” for curriculum and instruction needs that will occur within the next 3-5 years. Priority 3 projects are listed as “would like to do” but are not high priority because the existing infrastructure will last 6-10 more years. In total, priorities 1-3 add up to approximately $1 billion ($930 million). A fourth category, Priority 4, includes items that will not be addressed by the bond at all because their life expectancy is 10+ years.
Additionally, projects not in PBK’s original three-level prioritized plan can be added to the bond recommendation. The district has definitely done that, proposing nearly an additional $1 billion in major capital projects. Humble ISD administrators have described the document as “living and breathing,” meaning it is adaptable to the ever-changing needs of the district. Hurricane Harvey, for instance, changed some of those projections, but the large capital items for the most part are not hurricane-related.
Many teachers and district employees were on hand Nov. 6 to present the positive impacts of these capital projects to Humble ISD and its students. The district has also provided tours of facilities in order to provide the committee members with more information.
In total, the facilities assessment encompasses a $2 billion wish list encompassing new capital projects and substantial maintenance and repair projects. This figure represents nearly a ten-fold increase from the last community bond of $245 million. Naturally, the district is not expecting the community to fund $2 billion worth of projects, at least not all at once, and certainly not in a one-time 2018 bond. They say the expectation is to have another bond in approximately five years (2023).
Humble ISD has instructed the bond committee to aim for a $600 million bond package as the maximum prudent level of additional debt to incur in addition to the existing $827 million in current outstanding district financial obligations. The district has gone on record saying some large projects, like $200 million for a new high school, does not need to be in the 2018 bond package due to the unknown timing of when or even if the additional school would be needed.
The committee split into eight groups and had approximately one hour to decide how to allocate $600 million. The eight different plans were presented in the meeting. Some groups chose projects which would purely benefit academics and classroom instruction, and said no to other large capital projects. Some groups took a different approach, allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to athletic projects like new field turf, third gymnasiums in each high school, Charles Street stadium renovation and a brand new $60 million natatorium--while saying no to projects that directly benefitted the classroom. Some groups seriously discussed building a new $120 million multi-purpose arena.
Dominant to nearly all of the eight teams was discussion of a rebuild versus repair model for both Lakeland Elementary and Kingwood Middle School. The district says it is more cost effective to rebuild than to replace, but provided cost figures for both options.
It has been 10 years since Humble ISD citizens approved a $245 million bond. The 2008 bond was used to purchase land for 10 schools and open and construct eight more. All of that was at an actual cost of approximately $109 million. Other facility renovations amounted to an additional $37 million, with an additional $14 million allocated to increasing administrative costs and technology.
While citizens can no longer officially serve on the bond committee, meetings are open to the public. Next month, meetings will be held on Dec. 4 and 14 to continue refining the proposed bond package. More information can be found on the district website at humbleisd.net.