Midlothian Mirror Managing Editor

Midlothian Independent School District’s bond steering committee has a plan and a bond package — now they need the votes to pass it.

Bond Steering Committee member Don Hogg and MISD Superintendent Dr. J.D. Kennedy spoke to the Midlothian Rotary Club last week about the needs of the district and the details of a $103 million bond that goes before voters in November.

“I am passionate about our schools and realize the role they play in our community,” said Hogg. “Good schools are a key element in maintaining a high quality of life. I am urging people to look at those communities who have not maintained their schools and made quality education a top priority.”

Hogg said the bond has three propositions:

$98.8 million for the first phase of a two-phase high school with a capacity for 1,800 students. $2.5 million for an ag science center to be shared by the district’s two high schools. $1.5 million to purchase land for several school sites.

Hogg has been a member of MISD’s bond planning committees for several years, has lived in the district for 20 years and sent his kids to MISD. He talked to Rotarians about the planning and logic behind the bond proposal and details that led to the decision to put the largest bond issue ever before Midlothian voters.

“I know a second high school is a huge change for Midlothian, but it is impossible to put all our students in one high school,” said Hogg. “Every study we looked at said the smaller the class size, the better kids do in school.

We did not see how building a mega high school would be in the best interest of our children or this community,” he added. “The district already owns land for a second high school and this is something that has been talked about and planned for, for several years.”

Hogg pointed out that two high schools would provide twice as many opportunities for kids to excel in everything from football and band to cheerleading and drama.

“I hope people realize the kids who graduate from our schools will be the ones leading our community in just a few short years,” said Hogg. “We need to build the schools they need to become successful adults.”

Hogg said Midlothian has the third largest FFA chapter in the state, has repeatedly won awards at the state and national level and is the only chapter in Ellis County that doesn’t have an ag facility.

“This isn’t just a barn where you put pigs and chickens,” said Hogg. “This is a learning center that cuts across every social and economic level of the community.

“Let’s face it, to be an athlete you have to be born with a certain set of skills, to do well in band you have to have a talent and ear for music,” Hogg explained. “But ag is a program that any student can get involved in and if they plan and work hard they can excel in it.”

Hogg also pointed out as Midlothian becomes more urban, an ag facility would help the community maintain that rural quality of life.

Hogg said the third proposition to buy additional land for the district is the easiest to explain.

“The price for land is going up and it is harder and harder to find those larger pieces of good property for schools,” said Hogg. “Buying land now is a wise investment by our district.”

Hogg urged voters to look at the facts and to call him or MISD administration offices if they had questions about the referendum or what the bond would buy.

Kennedy thanked Hogg and the entire MISD Bond Steering Committee for their time and effort it putting together a bond package for the community.

“We actually started this process in June and they went through a lot of information,” said Kennedy. “The situation in Midlothian is all related to growth and how we plan for it.”

Kennedy said growth projections have slowed slightly this year, but he said a pickup in the economy would probably put Midlothian back in a housing boom.

“Our school district covers 112 square miles and we are the 22nd fastest growing school district in the state,” said Kennedy. “We will have 2,500 students in our high school by 2010 and we will be full.”

Kennedy said the current high school covers 42 acres, is landlocked and has nowhere to grow.

Kennedy said the concept of building ninth- and tenth-grade centers and keeping Midlothian a one-high-school town was discussed.

“When Midlothian ultimately builds out we will need facilities to educate high school kids and no one has a high school for 12,000 kids,” said Kennedy. “The bond steering committee has repeatedly said to plan for the future and that means a second high school.”

Unless UIL rankings and school growth across the area changes radically, Midlothian will become a 5A district in a year or two. Once the second high school is built the district’s larger high school would probably fall back to 4A. The new high school could be a large 3A, but would more likely be a smaller 4A high school.

Kennedy said the BSC and MSD Trustees trimmed back the original bond proposal from $138 million to $103 million.

“We aren’t getting the band hall we want, we’ve cut out choir rooms and we’ve reduced the size of the gym and auditorium,” said Kennedy. “This is a ninth through 12th grade core facility that we will grow into a 2,500 student school.”

The second phase, based on the district’s assessment, would probably be built in 2015.

The BSC was also told the district will need a third middle school in the next four years and a seventh elementary school could be needed in two to three years.

The first phase would see: a 335,137-square-foot building constructed for $58.65 million, 65,823-square-foot metal building for athletics at $10.86 million, and $2.93 million for off-site utilities and contingencies.

The high school costs would also include $1.086 million for owner betterment and $1.448 million for contractor contingency. Survey, consulting and engineering fees and permits would add another $8.99 million.

Furnishing the second high school would cost an estimated $5.99 million and technology costs would add an estimated $1.499 million.

The district has also added in a one-year inflation rate of 8-percent to send the told estimated cost to $98,790,613.

The Agricultural Science Center would be constructed for $1.77 million. That number breaks down into $1.4 million in building costs, $70,000 for site contingency and $300,000 to bring utilities to the facility.

The district has figured in $61,950 for contingencies, $219,834 for fees, engineering and permits, $146,556 to furnish the center and $36,639 for technology costs.

A one-year inflation rate of 8 percent brings the ag center proposal to $2,413,777.

The $1.5 million in land costs would probably be used to buy land for a seventh elementary school. While the district has discussed building its third middle school on property it owns on Sudith Lane, the district has not determined where it will build the seventh elementary school.

The second high school is to be built on property the district already owns at the corner of FM 1387 and Walnut Grove Road east of Midlothian.

And in spite of all the talk of $100 million school bond issues, the rate at which MISD taxes property owners could still go down.

MISD’s bond attorney Bill Gumbert told the BSC in July that Midlothian’s maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rate stood at $1.50 per $1,000 of property value in 2005. It dropped to $1.37 during the 2006-07 school year and is expected to drop again this year to $1.04. Two years ago the Texas Legislature implemented property tax reform that cut taxes over the 2005-06 school year and the again in the 2006-07 year.

The district’s interest and sinking fund (I&S) rate was .2875 cents in 2005, climbed to .32750 cents in 2006-07 and is expected to remain steady this year. The MISD Board of Trustees will formally set the 2007-08 tax rate this fall.

Gumbert said if MISD was successful in passing a $123.5 million bond this fall, the I&S rate would go to .41375-cents in 2008 and .50-cents in 2009. Both the M&O and I&S taxes would still be less than taxes in 2006-07.

The community and MISD board have wrestled with bond issues for several years.

MISD’s student population has increased by 33 percent over the last five years. The school district covers 111 square miles and serves approximately 6,000 students who reside within the boundaries of Cedar Hill, Mansfield, Maypearl, Ovilla, Venus and Waxahachie.

Ranked as one of the fastest growing school districts in the state, MISD is struggling to provide the best learning opportunities for students without over-taxing their parents and businesses.

Midlothian ISD includes five elementary schools grades Pre K - 5, two middle school grades 6-8, and one high school grades 9-12. The district broke ground on a sixth elementary school last week.

The district also has over 700 employees

Midlothian hammered out a master plan with its Growth Management Committee in 2003. That plan saw the district pass an $80 million bond in early 2004 to build a stadium, join the north and south campus of the high school, finish Walnut Grove Middle School and buy land.

Three years ago the Midlothian Independent School District was handed numbers saying they would need a new high school by the fall of 2010.

Midlothian has a sixth elementary school opening on Sudith Road in the fall of 2008 and if the district decides to redraw attendance zones - and they have given every indication they will - elementary school needs could be pushed back three to four years.

Bob Templeton, MISD demographer, said in June the district is growing between 6- and 9-percent a year and anything over 5 percent is considered significant.

Templeton pointed out MISD saw 209 new elementary school students enroll last year. A typical elementary school holds about 650 to 700 students comfortably. He added that J.R. Irvin Elementary School and Longbranch Elementary School will reach capacity in the 2008-09 school year. Mt. Peak Elementary is expected to reach its capacity of 818 students in the fall of 2009.

“Your high school is growing by about 130 to 170 students a year,” Templeton said. “It takes roughly a year to design and get the permits to build a high school and then two years to actually build it. By 2012 you will most definitely need a new high school.”

The BSC was formed in June to help the district decide what the community needs, present that idea to MISD Trustees and then turn around and help sell that bond issue to the community.

The 2007 Midlothian ISD Bond Steering Committee is: Kathy Armstrong, Dee Arterburn, Shara Backus, Jimmy Bailey, Becky Blackburn, Brian Blackwell, David Boswell, Dawn Brown, Robin Bullock, Bill Burdett, Duke Burge, Heidi Byrum, Nena Challenner, Karen Childers, Karen Cox, Dan Dunegan, Jean Embry, Joe Fallis, Pat Farrell, Scott Fertig, Bridget Flaherty, Gina Florence, Kim Gilson, Gregory Glenn, Sherry Goldman, Alicia Gonzalez, Doug Hankins, Jana Hathorne, Gail Haynes, Al Hemmle, Sandra Hill, Don Hogg, William Houston, Roger Jaffe, John Johnson, Larry Keiser, J.D. Kennedy, Sid Kuykendall, Tony Lokash, Ken Marks, Mike Marshall, Steve Massey, Vicki Massey, Matt McKay, Monte Mechler, Jim Mentzel, Tom Moore, Davis Morgan, Richard Norman, Kirk Paschall, Norman Pender, Donald Reese, William Reese, Richard Reno, Jay B. Roberts, Danny Rodgers, Tim Savins, Phil E. Seay, Wayne Shuffield, La-shea Slaydon, Carl Smith, Bob Templeton, Coy Tipton, Krista Tipton, Beth Van Amburgh, Leesa Vardeman, Gary Vineyard, Cherie Wagoner, Judy Walling, Andrea Walton, Rhonda Welch, Jamie Wickliffe, Kim Wiens, Cindy Williams, Rene Williams, Dee Wilson and Lori Worley.