US Vote Smart
New buildings: $282.4 million
Land (for future building sites): $10 million
Renovations: $90.2 million
Other: $104.4 million
Submitted by kenneth vaughn on 2015-10-23 00:45:50
The MCTP is opposed to the CISD school bond. While MCTP recognizes that the county will experience considerable growth over the next four years and should invest in infrastructure, the bond seems to request considerably more money than is needed to address immediate construction needs. The county is already heavily in debt and we need to invest our money more wisely. Turning down this proposal will likely result in a better bond in the near future, as we saw with the road bond.
The rating of 40 indicates that the MCTP vetting committee recognizes the value in schools and education, but reflects the belief that we are not getting our money's worth.
Montgomery County is growing. In 2003 CISD enrollment was 38,883 students. This year, it is over 57,500; which represents a growth rate of 3.3% per year. If this rate continues, enrollment will increase by more than another 8,000 students over the next four years. This number would justify much of the work proposed by the current bond while building extra capacity for continued growth at the high school level.
However, this assumes that the boom in the area continues. Given that the price of oil has collapsed more than it did in the late 1970's to early 1980's, there is a fairly high potential that will the economy will slow as it did during the 1980's. At that time, growth slowed from a similar 3% clip to a 1 % clip. If growth in the county was limited to 1%, we would see fewer than 3,000 students and the bond proposal is overly aggressive.
The Texas State Coptroller has issued a report detailing the average costs of new schools throughout the state. Obviously, the cost of a school will vary based on how many students it needs to support, but the report provides numbers for average cost per student for a new school and provides figures for cost per square foot and area needs per student. The cost per student varies based on grade level as shown below:
Based on these numbers and an even distribution of the expected new 8009 students (at the aggressive 3.3% growth rate), this comes out to new facility needs of approximately $172.8 million. However, the proposed high school will support over 4,500 students and we only expect an additional 2,464. Presumably, the high school will continue to fill to the 2022 time frame. This advanced construction cost can account for another $55 million bringing the estimated total to approximately $228 million. This amount should be sufficient to build the proposed 2 elementary schools, intermediate school, junior high school and high school - according to state averages.
Further investigation of the report reveals that construction costs in suburbia seems to be significantly lower than the statewide average. Cy-Fair schools consistently were built for 30-50% less than the state average. Thus, a number of $228 million for the new schools seam quite generous. It is unclear why the CISD believes it will cost them $282.4 million (24% more than the statewide average and more than twice as much as what Cy-Fair required).
Inadaquate information is available for a proper analysis of all of the renovation projects, but it appears that these numbers are similarly inflated. The renovation of Austin elementary is nearly the cost of a brand new school using statewide averages and the upgrade to Conroe HS is the cost of a 2,000+ student-body high school.
Most of the other costs in the bond probably should be funded out of the normal budget rather than a bond.
Finally, the contingency fund should decrease with the size of the bond.
While additional facilities will be needed in the future, most campuses are not yet at a critical point and the numbers cited in this bond proposal seem significantly out of line with those suggested by the state comptroller. We cannot in good concious support a bond where 40% of the money appears to be unjustified.