DALLAS — Six new schools funded by $451 million of general obligation bonds may be the solution to how Comal Independent School District in central Texas can accommodate an expected 11,000 new students over the next 10 years.
District trustees set a special session Aug. 26 to decide whether to put on the Nov. 5 ballot the six-school bond package recommended by a 50-member facilities planning committee. That’s the last day for Texas school districts to call a bond referendum for November, with the next available date not until April 2014.
The projects in the bond package include two new high schools, two middle schools, two elementary schools, and a replacement campus. District-wide efforts include land acquisition, improved safety and security, and additional school buses.
District voters approved a $205 million bond package in 2008 and a $189 million request in 2005.
The district has a current enrollment of 19,000 but expects more than 30,000 students by 2023.
Comal Independent School District serves a 589-square mile area in the Texas Hill Country that includes New Braunfels and most of Comal County. It also extends into portions of Kendall, Hays, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties.
Most of the increased student population is expected to be at the middle and high school levels, Superintendent Andrew Kim said.
The Comal school district is one of the fastest growing districts in the high-growth Austin-San Antonio corridor, he said. Its expanse includes more than 24,000 residential lots awaiting construction.
“Students and families in our district enjoy some of the best facilities in the state,” Kim said. “We are grateful for that, but understand that such projected growth in our enrollment will begin to strain our facilities.”
Enrollment has grown more than 25% since 2006, Kim said. The population of Comal County grew 70% from 2000 to 2010.
Assessed valuation in the district grew 16.5% a year between fiscal 2005 and 2009 thanks to its location within the high-growth corridor along Interstate 35 between Austin and San Antonio.
The growth pace slowed down in 2011, but rose in 2013 to a total taxable valuation of $9.8 billion.
Property values in the district are up 3.5% from 2012, said CFO David Anderson.
Some 1,000 homes with a total assessed value of $250 million have been built within the Bexar County portion of the district in the last 12 months, he said.
New home starts in the district in the first quarter of 2013 were up 38% from the same period of 2012. Its expanse includes another 24,000 residential lots awaiting construction.
“It is important that we make clear the future debt would be incurred by the district when demographics and enrollment growth justify and support the need,” he said.
Approval of $451 million of bonds would require an increase in the current debt service tax rate of 39 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
Trustee David Spencer said the district’s finances are in good shape despite the demands of a rapidly expanding student population.
“We have grown our enrollment by 78% but paid down 10% of our debt in the last nine years,” he said. “While we’ve had a tremendous increase in enrollment, we’ve been paying down the debt principal.”
Comal Independent School District’s $519 million of outstanding GO debt is rated AA by Fitch and Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service. The district’s credit is enhanced with coverage by the state’s Permanent School Fund.