DALLAS — Rapid growth prompted by increased oil and gas production in West Texas will require more schools in the Ector County Independent School District financed by a $129.8 million general obligation bond plan outlined to trustees Wednesday night.
The referendum would be on the Nov. 6 ballot if trustees approve the election ordinance at the Aug. 17 board session.
Superintendent Hector Mendez said the bond package is the result of months of effort by community volunteers on how best to cope with overcrowding in the district’s two high schools, six junior highs and 25 elementary schools.
The proposal calls for construction of three new elementary schools in areas with significant population growth at a cost of $57.1 million and $72.6 million worth of additions to the high schools.
Mendez said the additions at the high schools will allow ninth-grade students to move to those campuses. The junior highs will become middle schools, he said, with sixth through eighth grades.
The campuses include Permian High School, made famous by the book, movie and television show “Friday Night Lights.”
The Ector County ISD serves the city of Odessa and several small incorporated and unincorporated areas in an area of more than 900 square miles. Enrollment is more than 28,000 students.
The district is located approximately halfway between Dallas and El Paso in the oil- and natural gas-rich Permian Basin. More than 20% of total proven on-shore oil reserves are located in the Permian Basin, as well as 15% of total U.S. proven natural gas reserves.
The district is rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor’s. The credit is enhanced to triple-A with coverage by the state’s Permanent School Fund.
District voters last approved GO bonds in 2000, passing an $89.5 million plan to renovate and replace two elementary schools but rejecting proposals to build a new junior high and an athletic complex.
Passage of the referendum in November will require an increase in the district’s property tax rate of 5.8 cents per $100 of assessed value from the current $1.132 per $100 of valuation.
Craig Van Amburgh, a member of the group that has been assessing the district’s facilities since earlier this year, told trustees that comments at nine public forums were strongly behind the move to a middle school concept. He said residents were not in favor of adding a third high school, fearing it would require the district’s high school to move down a classification in athletic and academic competitions.
Property values in the district have gone up by 10% a year over the past five years, and total $10.5 billion in fiscal 2012.