Wylie’s future is now in the hands of its taxpayers.
The Wylie school board called a $45 million bond election last week, asking taxpayers for funds to continue construction on the district’s east side. The issue will be on the ballot of the Nov. 7 election.
“By 2021, we are looking at 1,200 more students than what we finished within 2017,” said Wylie superintendent Joey Light. “We’ve got to do something. When you see all those projections, it’s like a tsunami coming at you.”
If approved, the money would be used to build Wylie East Junior High on Colony Hill Road and to begin Phase 2 at Wylie East Elementary. When completed, all Wylie students 8th-grade and down who live east of US Highway 83/84 would go to school at the new facilities, and all students who live west of the highway would go to the current facilities.
Pre-K through 1st grade will be splitting next school year regardless of the bond election. Phase 1 of Wylie East Elementary already is underway and is expected to be complete in time for those students to move in next August. Phase 1 includes building 28 classrooms, administration offices, a cafeteria, PE fitness room and plenty of parking. It is being paid for from monies the district already has in its fund balance.
The bond would include $10 million for Phase 2 and $35 million for a new Junior High.
Phase 2 would include building a new wing at Wylie East Elementary with 28 more classrooms for students in grades 2nd-4th. It also includes a library and a gymnasium.
The other $35 million would be used to build Wylie East Junior High to educate students in 5th-8th grades. The construction would include 32 modern classrooms, four science labs, two computer labs, two gyms and fine arts and athletic facilities, including a band hall, choir hall, tennis courts, track and dressing rooms and anything else needed for a Junior High.
Wylie East would be Bulldogs and have the purple and gold colors just like the current Wylie Junior High.
The decision to call for a bond election has not come easily.
“This has been a good process,” Light said. “It’s been over a year in the making.”
Originally, Light had hoped to spread the building projects over many years to avoid a bond election. But at its board retreat in February, board members became concerned that enrollment at Wylie Junior High had gotten so large that students who want to participate in extracurricular are not getting to because of the large number of students.
Then Light became concerned that if new schools were inevitable, it might be cheaper to build them now rather than later.
“If you wait, you are paying that inflation,” he said. “If you know you’ve got to do it, you might as well do it earlier to get more bang for your buck.”
But what sealed the deal for Light was a look at a new enrollment projection that showed the district growing by 200 students per year. Previous projections had predicted the growth tapering off by now, but with massive new subdivisions continuing to be built, Light had demographers take another look.
“My instinct told me we were growing more than what we thought,” Light said. “I didn’t have all the information when we did the previous report. The new report ended up showing a sustained growth.”
The projections showed the district could have 2,000 more students in 10 years time.
“To me that shows a definite need to address that now rather than chasing it from behind after the fact,” Light said. “It’s opposite of what we have always done, but I almost think we’d be negligent not to do it.”
The district has had growth problems for most of its existence, particularly in the 80s and 90s. It tapered off some in the mid-2000s before accelerating again and really picking up in the last seven years.
The district has attempted to save money in a special fund each year so that when a new building is needed, the funds are available to build without a bond election. Wings were added to the Elementary and Intermediate and a new Early Childhood Center and Middle School were all built without a bond election.
However, the growth just came too fast.
Voter’s approved a $15 million bond in 2015 to build on to the high school and build a Performing Arts Center. Prior to that, the last bond was in 1994 to build the current high school.
If approved, the new bond is expected to add 18 cents of tax per $100 evaluation, which is about $139.44 per year for a home valued at $100,000. However, anyone over age 65 with a homestead exemption does not receive an increase in taxes.
Also, the district could possible decrease property taxes if property values increase. Light said the district only needs to tax enough to get the money needed to pay off the loan. If property values increase, the property tax decreases.