The HPISD board of trustees took steps during its Feb. 1 work session to begin forming a community advisory committee to consider a potential bond issue to fund high-priority repairs and help the district meet long-term goals.
The district needs to repair the chiller piping system at the middle and intermediate campus, a project that will cost $8-10 million, assistant superintendent for business services Scott Drillette told the board.
Significant leaks in the system have already caused about $3 million in damage. Those costs have been covered by the district’s insurance, but have raised premiums and caused challenges for staff and students, Drillette said.
“They make it work, and they continue on, but it’s not a good situation, obviously,” he said. “It’s literally every day we’re hoping this isn’t the day we’re going to have another leak.”
School districts typically fund large capital improvements by getting voter approval to sell bonds. HPISD voters last approved a bond package in 2015. That $361.4 bond issue – the largest in district history – funded projects including the construction of Boone Elementary School, and the rebuilding of Bradfield Elementary, Hyer Elementary, and University Park Elementary.
Drillette said the district plans to tackle the replacement of the HPMS/MIS pipes – its “highest of highest needs” – this summer, but does not have current bond funds to pay for the project.
One option, he said, would be for HPISD to pay for the repairs out of its general operating fund, which is used for salaries and daily expenses, and for trustees to approve a resolution to repay the fund with future bond proceeds.
Additional bond funds could be used for “high need maintenance projects” which, together with the piping system replacements, would cost an estimated $33 million, Drillette said.
Drillette, who said the district could issue about $100 million in bonds without a tax increase, explained that bond dollars could also fund other campus programs with capital needs.
And, he said, the district could free up additional dollars for staff compensation by reducing the daily expenses that come out of its general fund, which, unlike bond funds, is subject to recapture by the state. For example, HPISD could install solar panels to cut daily electricity costs, he said, or purchase buses instead of paying to charter them.
The district would need to start planning for a bond election at least 9 months before it occurred, he said. So, planning for a November election would need to start now, and for a May election could begin in August or September. “I would like to see a November, just because we have some immediate needs,” he said.
Finance officer Doug Woodward said that his committee also preferred the board aim for a November election, both because of the immediate need for funds, and because “as we’re going into budget planning for 25-26, (it) would be really advantageous for us to know what we can do in terms of again moving expenses and maximizing our teacher salary options.”
Superintendent Mike Rockwood suggested trustees begin to nominate community members who represent different stakeholder groups and could serve on an advisory committee. “A November timeline would be ideal if it can get done,” he said.
Click HERE to view the facilities assessment update slide presentation.