On April 18, 2017, Hillsborough County School Board members reviewed and discussed a Long Range School Planning Study that was conducted by Tindale Oliver, a consulting firm that helps organizations envision the future. The study was commissioned to help School Board members and district staff anticipate the needs of the community and develop a sustainable business plan that utilizes all resources available to provide a quality education that effectively prepares students for life. The study reviewed multiple sources of data to make projections based on trends in population growth rates, student generation rates, planned and proposed development, existing capacity, the cost of debt and maintenance and the estimated cost of building new schools. The study also took into account the role of charter schools which can mitigate the need for new schools.
Over the next 15 years, Hillsborough County is projected to grow at an annual rate of 1.3%, bringing in an estimated 10,000 new homes per year and roughly 5,400 new students every year. Most of the growth is expected in South Hillsborough County, with some additional growth anticipated in the north Plant City area. The report estimates that a minimum of 11 new elementary schools, 3 new middle schools and 6 new high schools will be needed in South Hillsborough County alone. The need to be mindful of current school renovations and deferred maintenance was also brought to the group’s attention. The long range study estimates that current impact fees will only fund half of the bare minimum number of schools that will be needed in the future.
“School infrastructure is very expensive and requires in-depth planning and an investment in the future,” said Steve Tindale during the school board workshop.
The report indicates the district will need to build between 23-38 schools or a minimum of 1.5 new schools per year between 2018-2032 to accommodate student enrollment. Over the next 15 years, this construction is expected to cost approximately $1-billion. The report showed that redrawing boundaries is not likely to resolve the need for more schools because so much of the projected growth is in the southern part of the county and the underpopulated schools are located in the northern part of the county.
“No matter how we shuffle boundaries, we don’t have enough classroom seats given the projected numbers. Redistricting can’t be the only answer,” said Tindale.
Many questions and concerns were raised by school board members including how many portables will be used to accommodate growth and where new revenue streams will be tapped to fund new school construction. School board members also asked district staff to explore the use of double sessions and to seek creative solutions such as the possibility of leasing space for new schools in addition to constructing new schools which can cost between $20 and 60 million dollars per school.
“We need to educate the community about this urgency for our district. Education has to be a priority in our community,” said school board member Sally Harris.
Between 1994 and 2014, Hillsborough County Public Schools built an average of three new schools per year. During the peak housing boom in the early 2000s, HCPS built an average of five schools per year. This building boom resulted in the accumulation of debt that will cost the School District $1.01 billion over the next 15 years. Maintaining older school buildings for safety and functionality is expected to cost $2.51 billion during the same time period. Based on current projected revenue sources of $2.32 billion over the next 15 years (source: Capital Millage and Community Investment Tax), there is a projected shortfall of $1.20 billion. The study estimated that a surtax for schools would generate $1.9 billion, which would go a long way to improve and expand current schools and provide the funding needed for new schools. The goal is to provide adequate environments for children to learn as the Hillsborough School District carries out its mission to prepare students for life.
“We know growth is coming. Impact fees will only go so far. We need to ask, what’s next,” said Jeff Eakins, superintendent. Eakins also urged the group to take into account learning trends of the future and how that will impact new school construction.
The school board hopes to gather with community leaders – both private and public – in the near future to discuss solutions for managing the growth that will impact our schools and the possible need for new revenue streams.
The workshop was live streamed and aired live on television, Frontier channel 32 and Spectrum channel 635. A recording of the workshop can be viewed at http://schoolboard.hcpswebcasts.com.
To learn more about growth management and to view the PowerpPoint presentation from Tindale Oliver, click here.