Photo by Blake Rasmussen
The site for a new high school being proposed by Pflugerville ISD would require $18 million in road improvements to make the school accessible, Pflugerville City Manager Brandon Wade said at an Aug. 14 City Council work session meeting.
The price tag for road improvements took Pflugerville Mayor Jeff Coleman and the council members by surprise as they were meeting to discuss items on the upcoming year’s budget.
“Is there any way to have a joint meeting—like tomorrow—with the school district,” Coleman asked, “so that they understand the significance their decisions are having on the city of Pflugerville?”
Wade recommended the City Council call a city bond election for May 2013 to fund the road improvements. The proposed city bond election would coincide with an anticipated PISD bond election that will ask voters to fund the estimated $90 million construction cost of PISD’s fourth high school.
Coleman appeared dumbfounded that the city was being asked to come up with so much revenue in so short a time.
“I am not trying to be negative, but $18 million is a lot,” Coleman said. “In five years, we’ve only had a couple of things where people said they need $18 million from us in May.”
Combined, the two bonds could cost Pflugerville homeowners an additional 8 cents per $100 valuation in property taxes, Coleman said.
“I don’t take making this recommendation to you lightly—at all,” Wade said. “I just think if the school district is going to go out for this bond election, the voters need to see the full cost associated with building this school.”
Last week, the PISD board of trustees announced the purchase of a 149-acre tract of land in East Pflugerville for the site for the proposed high school. The primary access roads to the plot, located on Weiss Lane east of Hwy. 130, would be Pflugerville Parkway and Pecan Street. Both roads, in addition to Weiss Lane, are in need of major road improvements to accommodate the expected traffic the high school would bring, Wade said.
PISD is expected to pay $5.96 million for the land, which the district says could also eventually host both a middle and elementary school.
“Purchasing land is one of the most important investments a school district makes on the operational side of the house,” PISD Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Adix said in a statement released by the district last week. “We must identify land in areas of expected growth, while at the same time taking into consideration existing infrastructure like roads, water, sewer and electricity.
“Most importantly, we must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars with whatever purchases we make.”
Following the announcement of the land purchase by PISD, Adix said the district expected existing Travis County bonds to cover the anticipated costs of Weiss Lane improvements.
“[Weiss Lane] isn’t set right now to handle a high school,” Adix said. “It’s a viable option, given [the county gets] the road done before we start opening up that school.”
Wade, however, said the Travis County bond funding for Weiss Lane improvements is insufficient to cover the necessary road expansion needed for school traffic.
“We don’t have the roadway infrastructure that’s even close to being able to support this,” Wade said.
Councilman Brad Marshall said he recently met with PISD officials and understands the district’s need for a new high school.
“The data that [PISD is] looking at says they don’t have a choice,” Marshall said. “They have to do it, or they’re going to be behind the curve—putting portable buildings outside the (existing) schools.”