Superintendent Dr. Jerome Stewart was the featured speaker as the Midlothian Rotary Club meeting Tuesday to discuss legislative changes and the upcoming MISD bond election.

“Legally, I am school superintendent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I cannot tell you to vote for it; I cannot tell you to vote against it. I shouldn’t even be able to tell you what I’m going to vote for, but if I have to share with you how I am going to vote on this, you need help,” Stewart said.

According to growth projections within 10 years the district will have 12,000 students. The current enrollment is 7,564.

“Some people doubt that. Our demographers said this is just the beginning, we are going to grow to 30,000 to 35,000 students. We will have three high schools – 5A high schools, two middle schools attached to those and every middle school will have six elementary schools,” he said. “It’s going to grow bigger and this is just the beginning.”

The $97.3 million single proposition bond includes three projects – a second high school, an elementary school and an addition to Frank Seale Middle School. The bond will not cover the entire cost of expansion and will require use of past bond money and a portion of fund balance.

“This is a community thing. This isn’t just a Jerome Stewart thing,” he said, saying that the Growth Management Committee has been meeting since January 2010 to determine how best to manage growth in the district. “The committee vetted just about any sort of idea that was out there and said this is the best way that we can accommodate the growth.”

To address the cost to individual taxpayers, Stewart said as an example that a resident owning a $200,000 home would see a monthly increase in I&S taxes of about $19.59. Taxpayers with over 65 and disabled homestead exemptions will not see an increase in school property tax.

Shifting the discussion to the state budget crisis, Stewart said one question that always come up is whether the district can afford this.

“I’m going to also share information with you about the state budget crisis. And one of the questions that always comes up is can you afford this? We have a $60 million annual budget. Some of it comes from the state, some comes from local sources,” he said. “Best case scenario we are going to lose about 5 percent of what we have – so we will lose about $3 million. The worst case scenario we’re going to lose maybe $19.6 million.”

He said now folks are hearing the worst case, but either way the district will have 3 percent more students to educate with less money and the district will have to make some hard choices.

“It’s not impossible but it will be difficult. The budget will be hard, but not impossible. We will make decisions that are best for the future of this district,” he said.

In a brief question and answer session Stewart revealed that with two high schools it is likely that the new school would be designated 3A and the old school as 4A, but that could change with future growth. He said it will be a full comprehensive high school with a core capacity of 2,500 students and some unique features. They do not anticipate building another stadium.

“This is just the beginning,” Stewart said. “We are just at the tip of the growth iceberg.”

Contact Rebecca at rebecca.hertz@wninews.com or call 469-517-1451.