Jarrell school district Superintendent Bill Chapman said he often checks out how many homes are under construction in the area to estimate how many new students to expect.
The district has grown by more than 500 students over the past five years, he said, and currently has 1,540 students. The district is asking voters to approve $54 million in bonds on May 6 because that sharp growth is expected to continue. It is the largest bond package in district history.
The Jarrell school board voted Feb. 6 to call for the bond referendum.
Officials say the money is needed to build a second elementary school, add 12 classrooms plus an auditorium at the high school and add 12 classrooms at the middle school. The district’s tax rate would increase by 17 cents if the bonds are passed. The current tax rate is $1.37 per $100 valuation.
For a homeowner with an average-value home worth $240,000, taxes would increase $408 per year if the bonds are approved. The $54 million in bonds includes $30 million for the new elementary school, which would open in the fall of 2019.
The school district’s last bond referendum was in 2008, when voters approved $42 million for the district’s first elementary school, a middle school, an expansion to the football stadium and renovations to the baseball stadium.
Troy Clawson, who has two children attending Jarrell schools and is the vice president of Al Clawson Disposal, said he supports the $54 million bond package. Two of his children were students at the elementary school and the middle school built after the 2008 bond vote.
“I’m so thankful someone had the foresight back then to stay in front of the growing number of people coming into our area,” he said. “That’s why I’m in favor of the new bonds, because we have to keep moving forward with the new kids coming in.”
The tax increase is worth it, he said.
“It gets the next child a good, clear path to their dream, and I don’t know how to put a price on that,” Clawson said.
There doesn’t seem to be any organized opposition to the bonds.
The district is growing by 10 percent to 12 percent per year, said Chapman. By 2026, it is expected to have 2,100 more students, according to figures provided by the district.
“Our projection is between 2019 and 2020 we would have no more rooms available at our current growth rate,” Chapman said.
The district does not have an auditorium, which means band and choir concerts often have to be held on small stages in school cafeterias, he said.
“We have kids performing behind curtains because they can’t find room on the stage,” Chapman said.
Jarrell has become an attractive place to live for people who cannot afford home prices in other parts of Central Texas, he said.
“The house you would have paid for in Hutto, Elgin and Manor is $40,000 to $60,000 cheaper here,” Chapman said.
He spoke during an interview this week at the cramped Jarrell school district administrative offices housed in a remodeled cabinet shop. The district is not seeking money for new administrative offices because officials want to “take care of the kids,” Chapman said.