The Houston Independent School District’s Board of Education in October will consider a proposal by district administrators to add $211 million in funding to the 2012 bond program, which would cover unprecedented and unanticipated inflationary construction costs.
Since 2012, when Houston voters approved the district’s $1.89 billion bond program, the district has seen a nearly 40 percent increase in building costs, from about $160 per square foot in 2012 to about $222 per square foot today.
Much of that spike is attributed to the region’s construction boom over the last several years, which has created a huge demand for workers and materials. HISD is not alone in this situation, as other districts throughout the area are facing similar challenges with their building programs.
The district already has taken some steps to mitigate these higher costs, including moving inflation and some reserve dollars to each project’s construction budget. However, there is still a shortfall, and the funding proposal would ensure all original commitments made in the bond program are fulfilled.
By a nearly 2-1 margin, voters in 2012 backed a plan to rebuild or renovate 40 schools across the city, including 29 high schools. The program also includes technology upgrades, middle school restroom renovations and improvements to districtwide athletics facilities.
“Our goal has not changed,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. “We will build the schools we promised when the bond program was approved in 2012. This additional funding will help us deliver on that promise and allow these projects to move forward immediately.”
Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said the Board is committed to making sure that all campuses are built to meet their communities’ needs.
“When voters approved this bond nearly three years ago, no one predicted the magnitude of construction price inflation that we are seeing today,” Skillern-Jones said. “Fortunately, because of the district’s conservative fiscal management, we are in a position to address this issue without increasing the burden on our taxpayers.”
Even with unprecedented market conditions, the district currently has more work underway than at any point during the past 25 years, and several new schools are slated to open by the start of the 2016-2017 school year. So far, HISD has spent $208 million of the voter-approved funds for the 2012 bond, including $44.5 million on real estate.
With Board of Education approval of the plan now on the table, HISD would issue $200 million in new maintenance debt. This new debt would not impact funding for any other school district needs, nor would it impact the district’s credit rating or the tax rates paid by property owners.
The remaining balance of $11 million needed to cover the inflation-related construction fund gap would be taken from the reserve fund of the 2007 bond program.
If approved, the $211 million would be distributed proportionately to each school project’s original construction budget to support needs related to project scope. In addition, some of the money would be distributed to support upgrades for districtwide athletics facilities.
For more information on the district’s building programs, please visit www.BuildHISD.org.