Navarro ISD constituents will have a couple of choices to make in November as the district is asking the community for $160 million to build a new high school, a second elementary school and new athletic facilities, and purchase land.
During a special meeting Friday night, trustees voted unanimously to call a bond election for a pair of propositions to create the new facilities and expand the district.
The first proposition, set at $130 million, will give the district the ability to purchase land, build a new high school to replace the current facility, and construct a new elementary to coincide with the current campus.
Both the high school and elementary have seen increases in student enrollment, Superintendent Wendi Russell said. With nearly two dozen housing developments underway — including potential apartment complexes — both campuses are expected to see far more students than they have classroom space to accommodate, Russell said.
“Having the enrollment now, just looking at preliminary numbers for this school year, we will be over capacity at our high school,” she said. “It has a capacity of 650 and we already have that many enrolled. Elementary is sneaking up quickly behind.”
The district began talks about new facilities three years ago under the guidance of former superintendent Dee Carter and a facilities committee. While those talks continued, action was placed on hold during the pandemic, Russell said. However, the construction of rooftops did not pause.
The district is also proposing a second proposition of $30 million for a new athletic complex that would bring all of the district’s athletic facilities together.
While $160 million for both is a high price tag, Russell said it will not all come at once.
The district’s financial advisor, Duane Westerman, of SAMCO, explained that selling the bonds in multiple settings will help keep the district in line with the maximum allowable interest and sinking tax rate and hold the financial burden to a minimum. The district is looking to sell bonds in three installments — one following passage, the second in a couple of years and a third a year or two after that.
Asking for a bulk amount will also help the Navarro ISD ensure the projects are done in a timely fashion and prevent the district from continuously asking the community for more money, Russell said.
“What we looked at is do we go for a bond and ask the taxpayers to give us the money that we can currently afford and, if so, we know in a year or two years, we’re coming back asking them for more money?” Russell said. “That capacity probably won’t get us everything we need, so then we have to come back and ask for another bond. We don’t want to keep going back and asking.”
Currently, Navarro ISD’s tax rate is $1.26230 per $100 valuation — $1.02230 for maintenance and operations and 24 cents for debt service.
If passed, the debt service rate could increase 26 cents to reach the maximum of 50 cents.
The average home cost in Navarro ISD is about $250,000, which would see an increase of $585 a year or $48.75 a month.
As the district pays off previous bond debts, refinances bonds and more homes are built, that rate will reduce, Russell said.
The proposed facilities
If passed, the high school would fit 1,100 students and include some upgraded educational opportunities for the students, including a career and technology wing that bolsters a welding shop, construction trades shop and classrooms for the certified nursing assistant program, Russell said.
“We want to give our kids opportunities to do things that will help them get a job in our community and stay in our community and give back to us,” she said. “It would also include an ag facility and a small show barn and arena.”
The high school will also feature a new performing arts center, where the district could host community events.
The new elementary school will expand the district’s elementary education offerings for more students, increasing the district’s current elementary capacity of 650 to about 1,400. The new elementary campus is planned to add space for 750 students, Russell said.
“We’ll all still be Panthers, but we’ll have two elementary schools,” she said.