Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
On election day, Southwest Independent School District will ask voters to approve a $75 million bond to finance renovations throughout the district, including significant upgrades at Southwest High School and a new natatorium.
These projects, part of the district's first bond since 2012, come at a time companies such as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas and Schlumberger have made significant investments within the district that have helped grow the tax base. District officials say now is the time to call for a bond, before district property values increase from this development and state support drops off as a result.
"When we passed the 1999 bond, the State – because of our [lack of] property wealth at that time – was picking up about 85 percent of the bond," Southwest ISD Superintendent Lloyd Verstuyft said. "We’ve seen that chipping away over time as our property wealth goes up."
The district projects the property tax rate would not change with the approval of the bond, remaining at the rate of $1.473 per $100 of property valuation. The bond issue will be on the general election ballot. Early voting will run from Oct. 22 to Nov. 2 and election day is Nov. 6.
The proposed natatorium, which Verstuyft calls a "point-of-pride project," would be located adjacent to McAuliffe Middle School on 9.77 acres of land. Such a natatorium will help fill a need for swimming facilities south of Highway 90. There are 23 public pools north of the highway, and just four south of it.
The district currently uses the Aquatic Center at Palo Alto College. Practice times for swimmers have been limited, Verstuyft said, with two Southwest ISD high schools and schools from other districts also using the facility.
For years, the district considered bond issues that would have included a natatorium, but always chose to prioritize campus needs instead, Verstuyft said. This time, Southwest ISD decided to ask for voter approval of the project.
The City of San Antonio has already allocated $4 million for the natatorium from its 2017 municipal bond. If constructed, the $21 million facility would primarily serve SWISD students, but also could be accessible to the public.
In the summers, the facility would be open to the community and the district could lease it out throughout the year. Verstuyft said the district would use it both for athletics and for water-safety classes for Southwest ISD's second-graders.
The district bond also contains money for major renovations at Southwest High School. These upgrades will be focused on the interior to enhance career programs and teaching spaces. Updates will include a reconfiguration of the Fine Arts Choir Hall, an elevated walkway between buildings to enhance safety, and the addition of collaborative spaces on the campus.
Scobee Middle School also would see upgrades to its heating and air conditioning system and other interior improvements. Scobee is one of the district's oldest buildings and hasn't gotten significant updates, Verstuyft said.
Elsewhere in the district, campuses would receive updates to roofing and heating and air conditioning systems. The district would also purchase new school buses to replace aging vehicles in SWISD's fleet.
The district's boundaries stretch from south of Loop 410 close to Lytle. SWISD serves close to 14,000 students, the majority of whom qualify as economically disadvantaged.
Southwest ISD plans to hold community bond meetings to explain the proposed plan on Oct. 17 at the Southwest Legacy and Southwest High School auditoriums.