During a special meeting of the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees on Thursday, Jan. 26, the Aledo Growth Committee presented the final draft of the group’s bond proposal as part of a special election in May of 2023.
The committee, comprised of 50 volunteers from the community, has met 15 times since August of 2022. They recommended the board seek a 2.5 cent property tax increase that would raise the average homeowner’s property taxes by $89.76 per year in 2023 and 2024.
The overall tax rate for Aledo ISD has decreased 22.71 cents over the past five years.
Based on market valuations from August 2022 when the group began meeting, the AGC decided the 2.5 cent increase was sufficient for meeting the district’s immediate needs while leaving adequate bonding capacity for the future as a number of key factors remain in flux.
“A couple meetings ago, [Forrest] Collins (school board member) came to address the committee and said, ‘Listen, do the right thing. Do what you as the committee think is the right thing and let the community decide if they agree with you or not. If you do the right thing, you can’t go wrong.’ I feel comfortable that we’re doing the right thing for our children, right now,” AGC co-chairman Dan Reilley said after making the presentation to the Board.
So, what does the community get for their tax dollars if the bond is approved?
The big-ticket item on the list is Elementary School No. 7. With the perpetual expansion within the district, the demographers project Aledo ISD enrollment will exceed capacity at the elementary level by the 2024-2025 school year. With a functional capacity between the six current elementary schools of approximately 4,000 students, the district will surpass 4,500 students in grades kindergarten-fifth within two years at the current growth rate.
Elementary School No. 7, with an estimated cost of $59.8 million, will have the capacity to house an extra 889 students with doors ready to open in the fall of 2024 if the bond passes in May. The 107,500 square-foot building will be constructed on land the district already owns adjoining the new McAnally Middle School on the northwest end of the property.
Updates given to the committee on Monday, Jan. 23, from the engineers show a reduction in overall cost for the project since the district already owns the property, which will require less initial excavation to prepare the site for construction than previously anticipated. The original price tag for the project was $66 million.
The next item of business on the proposal is $25.2 million earmarked for updates and improvements to the Aledo High School and Daniel Ninth Grade campus. The largest portion of those funds ($20.3 million) would be used to provide additional flex spaces and repurpose other spaces to meet the current program needs at the ninth grade and high school levels. The remaining $5 million is budgeted to replace the 20-year-old classroom furniture the students use each day while on campus.
Also on the agenda is $17.8 million to address the greatest need the district has at this point in time – the purchase of land.
According to the demographers’ report, Aledo ISD will exceed student capacity at the elementary level by 2024, at the middle school level by 2027, and at the high school level by 2028. Regardless of what actions the residents of Aledo and the board decide to take, the procurement of land is a vital part of the future for the district. The funds will allow the district to acquire plots of land when the opportunity arises while maintaining flexibility with how the land is utilized to best meet the needs of the district going forward.
The remaining $21 million is allotted to allow the Board to upgrade security and technology across the district, replace approximately 50% of the bus fleet, and repair or replace items such as aging HVAC units.
The AGC will meet for the final time on Monday, Feb. 6. On the agenda during the meeting, the committee will revise the final proposal based on recommendations from the board of trustees and the community feedback forms. They will conclude the meeting by putting together their long-range proposal for the board that will extend over the next 10-15 years.
“I know there’s a lot more to do,” Reilley said, speaking of the work that still lay ahead of the AGC. “We just have to sit back and wait on the data points to come in so we can start Phase 2. I don’t think in a high-growth district, you can ever say, ‘We’re good, stick a pin in it,’ because the next wave always comes.”
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