DICKINSON — The Dickinson school district is proposing to build a new education village featuring an elementary and middle school to house its booming student population.
To fund it, voters will be asked in May to approve a $56 million bond proposal.
If approved, the added bond debt would increase the district’s tax rate by about 3 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
The school district covers 61 square miles and is the fastest growing school district in the county. The district has about 10,000 students enrolled in the 2013-14 school year, according to data from Texas Education Agency.
Ten years ago 6,515 students were enrolled in the district. In a decade, the district has grown by 65 percent.
By comparison, statewide enrollment grew by 19 percent from the 2002-03 school year to the 2012-13 school year, according to a recent state report.
It takes a village
The district is contemplating building a “mini-education village,” said district spokeswoman Tammy Dowdy.
The site would house an approximately 105,000 square foot elementary school and and approximately 115,000 square foot middle school.
Having both schools on the same site would allow for shared resources and space — such as a cafeteria, a library and some office areas — and could save the district about $1 million in costs, Dowdy said.
The district is tentatively planning to build the schools on the west side of the district, on FM 517 between Calder Road and Cemetery Road, Dowdy said. That plan would have to be approved by the school board — if voters approve the bond issue.
The district has owned about 40 acres at the Louis G. Lobit school site since the 1970s, when it was donated by the Lobit family, she said.
Many of the fastest-growing neighborhoods are in the west side of the district.
The Bay Colony subdivisions around Calder Road are growing and adding homes. The Lago Mar subdivision near Tanger Outlets, 5884 Interstate 45 in Texas City, is expected to add about 250 to 400 new homes by 2016, Dowdy said.
“What people don’t realize about Dickinson ISD is that we are more than (the city of) Dickinson,” she said. “Dickinson is only a very small part of Dickinson ISD.”
Adding to the debt
Because of continued growth, the district has had to keep building. To pay for the construction, the district has had to take on debt.
At the end of the last fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31, the district had $223 million in debt, Dowdy said.
“The majority of this comes from the district’s last two bond issues,” she said.
Voters approved a $107.5 million bond package in 2007, which funded renovations and upgrades at several facilities. In 2005, voters approved two propositions totaling $85 million. The majority was used on new schools, upgrades to facilities and an agricultural center. About $13 million funded a new stadium.
Voters also approved a $47.4 million bond issue in 1999 that funded two new elementary schools, a middle school and additions and renovations to existing buildings.
The bond proposal on the May ballot is driven by increasing enrollment, Dowdy said.
Since the last bond issue in 2007, the district has added about 2,255 students, according to state data.
“If more students are enrolling, we have to a find a way to have the space to accommodate them,” Dowdy said. “This is a dilemma every fast-growing school district faces.”
Paying it back
If approved, the district’s tax rate would increase by about 3 cents, from $1.54 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.57. The debt would be paid off in 30 years.
In the 2012-13 school year, the district paid about $16.1 million toward its debt, Dowdy said.
The state limits how much a district can borrow. The Dickinson school district is near that limit, but as debt is paid off each year and the district’s tax base expands, the district gains capacity to take on debt.
“We are confident that our tax base is more than adequate to meet the financial obligations of the bonds,” Dowdy said.
Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.