DALLAS - Voters in some of the fastest-growing suburbs across Texas head to the polls Saturday to weigh in on bond referendums to finance construction of new schools.

If the referendums pass, most of the new debt will eventually come to market backed by the state's triple-A rated Permanent School Fund, providing investors with a large supply of high-rated bonds in the coming months.

Outside San Antonio, voters in the Comal Independent School Districtface a $206 million bond package, the largest in the history of the suburban district, which has added about 1,000 new students in each of the past five years. That trend is expected to continue, pushing the enrollment to more than 20,000 by 2013.

Officials want to renovate two high schools, and a bond committee recommended four new elementary schools, heating and air conditioning upgrades at all elementary and middle schools, land acquisition for future sites, and technology upgrades across the district's 18 campuses.

Voters approved a $189 million bond package in December 2005, and the district exhausted that authorization with a $81.2 million sale in January 2007. Comal ISD is about 30 miles northeast of San Antonio.

The Hutto Independent School District has $138.4 million on the ballot in two propositions for a second high school and two more elementary schools to house a growing enrollment that is increasing by 20% annually.

The first proposition seeks $128.5 million for the new campuses and the other for $9.9 million is for a natatorium. Some proceeds from the debt will finance land acquisitions for future schools and a seating expansion at a football stadium.

The district, which is about 20 miles northeast of downtown Austin, serves nearly 4,400 students in six campuses. The student population has doubled since the beginning of the decade and each of the schools operate at overcapacity.

Officials project roughly 15% to 20% annual enrollment growth for the next few years, pushing the student population to as high as 7,600 by 2010. Some estimates show total enrollment climbing to nearly 21,000 by the start of the school in 2017.

In January 2007, Standard & Poor's upgraded its underlying rating on the district to BBB-plus from BBB due to significant property tax-base growth and a stable financial position despite enrollment growth. In the upgrade note, analysts labeled Hutto "the fastest-growing school district" in Texas.

Voters in the Plano Independent School District will weigh in on the largest bond package ever in the suburb 20 miles north of downtown Dallas. The $490 million referendum calls for four new campuses on the east side of the city, which is seeing continued growth, as well as technology upgrades and renovations to 10 existing campuses.

In 1960, less than 3,700 people lived in Plano. Now the city's population is nearing 270,000, more than double the 1990 Census tally of about 129,000. The school district currently serves an enrollment of nearly 55,000 students in 68 schools. Since 1997,voters in the district have overwhelmingly approved five bond elections for a total of $771.7 million.

The Northwest Independent School District, which is experiencing annual enrollment growth of 13% to 15%, has a $260 million bond package on Saturday's ballot.

The district, which is about 15 miles north of downtown Fort Worth, expects the current student population to nearly double in the next five years to about 22,100 by 2012. The bond package would finance seven new elementary schools, one middle school.

A 20-year plan by the district's planning committee calls for 28 new schools to accommodate the anticipated growth. Under the plan, the district would have more than 90,000 students in about 115 schools in 2027.

The district currently serves 11,940 students at 17 campuses in 14 municipalities across Tarrant, Denton, and Wise counties.

 

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