DALLAS — The Dallas Independent School District has halted bond-financed renovations and upgrades at eight schools due to lower-than-expected enrollment.
The $17.2 million of work at the schools, most of which are in south Dallas, is part of DISD’s $1.35 billion general obligation bond package approved by voters in December 2008.
District officials said the work will be postponed until a new demographics study commissioned by trustees becomes available.
Population and Survey Analysts, a Texas demographics firm, is studying changes in Dallas population patterns to help the district determine expected enrollment over the next 10 years.
The $340,000 study, which focuses on the city’s 8,000 subdivision and apartment complexes, is scheduled to be complete by the fall.
PASA also conducted the population study in 2007 that was the basis of the 2008 bond package.
Former DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa said earlier this year that the district might consider closing some low-enrollment campuses as revenues decline due to a drop-off in state aid to local education.
Enrollment in the district peaked in 2005-06 with 161,972 students. Enrollment in the fall of 2010 was 157,158.
The original proposal by the district’s 2008 bond advisory committee was for $2.65 billion of GO bonds, but trustees cut the request in half. At the time, the board said many of the upgrades and new schools removed from the 2008 request would be financed from future bond programs.
The board had been considering sending a $1 billion bond request to voters in 2013, but DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said trustees would probably delay the request.
The district’s $2.7 billion of outstanding debt is rated A-plus by Standard & Poor’s, Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service, and AA by Fitch Ratings. The debt is enhanced to triple-A with coverage from the Texas Permanent School Fund.
Dahlander said trustees are in the early stages of determining which schools are being under-utilized. The demographic study will help determine which schools might be closed, he said.
Enrollment at 20 of DISD’s 225 schools were one-third below facility capacity in the 2010-11 school year, officials said, with 15 of them located within a three-mile radius of downtown Dallas.
Six of the eight schools where work has been postponed are one-third below capacity, the district said, and two of the six are at one-third of capacity.
The postponed projects are mostly minor efforts, including the replacement of playground equipment, upgrades of air-conditioning equipment, and window and door replacements.
DISD exhausted its authorized debt capacity from authorizations in 2008 and 2002 with a $1 billion bond issue in late 2010, the largest single sale by a Texas school district. The tranche included $950 million of taxable Build America Bonds.
District trustees adopted a $1.46 billion budget for fiscal 2012 that includes $210 million of debt service.