DALLAS - The two elementary schools proposed for construction in the Allen Independent School District's $219 million bond package will be the last new schools the Dallas-area district anticipates putting up.

Voters in the Collin County school district will decide on the proposed general obligation bond package at the Nov. 4 general election. The largest bond package in the district's history was $115 million of bonds approved by voters in 1998.

"This will be our last bond election for new construction," said Tim Carroll, director of information for Allen ISD. "These two schools, and one under construction, will finish us out."

Allen is 80% built out, Carroll said, and the district expects the double-digit enrollment growth over the past decade will decline to a more manageable level.

"For a number of years our enrollment has gone up an average of 11% a year, but lately it's been 7% to 8%, and we expect that rate to decline further," he said. "Our enrollment went from 17,000 at the end of last school year to about 17,700 now."

Allen ISD had 10,000 students in 2000, according to Carroll said. "We've been opening a new school every year," he said.

The district's debt carries unenhanced ratings of Aa3 from Moody's Investors Service and AA from Standard & Poor's. Allen ISD's bonds are rated triple-A with enhancement from the Texas Permanent School Fund.

If voters approve the bonds, the district expects to sell the first tranche in January.

Projects in the bond package include those deemed critical needs by a citizens' bond committee over the summer. The panel listed 53 projects with a price tag of more than $300 million, but the board opted only to include those projects with the highest priority.

School trustees anticipate setting another bond election in May 2009 to finance several big-ticket items, Carroll said, including a high school auditorium, a central service center and transportation facility, and a football stadium with up to 20,000 seats.

"The initial price estimate on the football stadium was $65 million, while one of the neighboring districts just built one for about $31 million," he said. "The board decided it needed to take a closer look at the size of the stadium and what it will include."

School board president Victoria Sublette said the district would contract with an architectural firm this fall to further study the cost and scope of the three projects before a bond proposal is presented to voters in May 2009.

"Our decision to split the critical projects into two separate elections was based on our need to get several of these projects, such as elementary schools, moving forward right away," she said. "The board wanted to devote extra time to studying the stadium, auditorium, and service center projects so that we have a clearer vision of the scope and costs of these projects before we seek the approval of the voters."

Sublette said the work financed with the proposed bonds includes new facilities as well as maintenance of existing schools.

"The overall bond proposal will help us accommodate growth and maintain the facilities we already have," Sublette said. "Approximately 30% of the $219 million proposal will be invested in renovations and upgrades to our existing schools."

In addition to the two new elementary schools, the bond proceeds will finance construction of a new wing at the high school, expansions at two middle schools, technology upgrades, new buses, and the purchase of land for the proposed service center.

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