Crowley ISD Superintendent Michael McFarland can’t shake the sense of urgency he has these days.
On a recent drive around the south Tarrant County school district, he looked out of a passenger window of a white Chevy Suburban. He watched construction crews flatten dirt for a future neighborhood. Up the street, men in hardhats were framing new homes next to an elementary school that is over capacity.
His district is growing.
To deal with the influx of new students, Crowley ISD voters will consider a more than $1 billion bond proposal. If approved, officials expect the bond to ease the district’s growing pains for the next decade.
“What we know is we have to make some significant improvements right now and start to really look at what we need for the future,” McFarland said.
Voters will consider the bond in the May 6 election. Early voting starts April 24 and ends May 2.
Three propositions form the bond. They are:
- Prop A calls for more than $948.2 million to construct seven new schools, other building upgrades, a new early college high school, land purchases and more.
- Prop B is $95.4 million and calls for the construction of a new inclusive outdoor learning center for children with special needs and a track and field complex.
- Prop C is $128.8 million to build a new performing arts and innovative learning center.
Families are flocking to newly built subdivisions with reasonably priced homes in Crowley ISD, which includes south Fort Worth, all of the city of Crowley and a sliver of Johnson County.
Currently, 22,159 homes and 2,500 apartment units are either under construction or planned in the district, according to demographer Dallas-based School District Strategies.
Enrollment was 16,915 at the start of the 2022-23 school year. By 2028, enrollment is expected to top 20,000.
More aggressive projections show enrollment jumping to 24,632 in 2032. If that holds, that would be an almost 46% bump in students.
Denise Turner, a retiree who lives in the district, was part of the committee of community members who assembled the bond proposal. The bond is the best way to get ahead of the significant growth coming to Crowley ISD, she said.
“It’s important that our children have facilities that they can go to that are fostering a good, healthy learning environment, where the schools are not overcrowded and the teacher-student ratio is adequate,” Turner said.
First bond election since 2007
Administrators constantly are updating enrollment numbers. In January, the frequently checked enrollment report showed more than 16,900 students. Three months later, the report showed 17,200 enrolled students.
What will my ballot say?
Here is the ballot language for each proposition:
Prop A: The issuance of $948,240,217.00 of bonds by the Crowley Independent School District for the construction, acquisition, renovation and equipment of school facilities in the district (including, but not limited to, improvements to enhance safety, security and energy efficiency), including the acquisition of land therefor, and the purchase of school buses and vehicles.
Prop B: The issuance of $95,406,485.00 of bonds by the Crowley Independent School District for the construction, acquisition and equipment of an inclusive outdoor learning center for children with special needs and track and field complex.
Prop C: The issuance of $128,825,820.00 of bonds by the Crowley Independent School District for the construction, acquisition and equipment of a new performing arts and innovative learning center.
“The growth is not coming — it’s already here,” McFarland said.
The last time Crowley ISD voters considered a bond was 16 years ago.
The district has been using its voter-approved $416 million bond from 2007 to manage its growth. Two projects remain: an almost $5.5 million natatorium that is expected to be completed in June and a $26 million elementary school that is estimated to be done in 2024.
The elementary school will be Crowley ISD’s 16th.
The 2023 bond would fund the construction of three elementary schools, a middle school and replacement campus for Crowley High School.
The district’s early college high school, Crowley Collegiate Academy, is currently housed in the Bill R. Johnson Career and Technical Education Center. The academy would receive its own campus, a move that would pave the way for additional career readiness courses at the CTE Center.
The proposed performing arts center in Prop C will be more than just a stage. District officials plan to have seven classrooms and an engineering lab so future career readiness courses can be taught there.
The center will be located on where the district’s former Central Administration Building was located in Crowley.
Turner is excited for the performing arts center. She is a performing arts advocate and has volunteered for theaters in Fort Worth since she moved here 10 years ago.
“The performing arts facility gives our children an opportunity, particularly those who are not necessarily going to be doctors or lawyers,” Turner said. “If they thrive in the arts, we give them that opportunity to be able to do that so they can dream without trepidation or inhibition.”
No tax rate increase
McFarland is hopeful voters will approve the bond. What is buoying his optimism is that the bond is not expected to cause a property tax rate increase.
Residents made it clear to the bond planning committee that they did not want to see a tax hike, the superintendent and Turner said.
Crowley ISD’s current property tax rate is $1.4429 per $100 valuation. The district has shaved 23 cents off the tax rate since 2018.
A lower tax rate does not necessarily mean a smaller property tax bill to Crowley ISD. Higher appraisals increased how much residents pay in property taxes.
The average home in Crowley ISD has a value of $205,660. That homeowner’s tax bill to Crowley ISD would be $2,967.46 — $155.43 more than what they paid in 2021.
The taxable value of Crowley ISD increased more than 15% between 2021 and 2022. The net taxable value was $10.5 billion in 2022, according to the Texas Comptroller's office. In 2021, the taxable value of the district was $9 billion.
A consistent plan for growth management
McFarland encourages people to drive around Crowley ISD.
Construction is happening across the district. Roads are being moved and widened. New businesses are popping up as new shopping centers expand. More homes than ever are under construction.
But McFarland is not in a rush to build every single new campus called for in the 2023 bond. The district plans to approach this bond, if approved, like it did with its 2007 bond, which took nearly 20 years to complete.
This time, though, the bond is expected to take half that time. Growth is here and more is coming, but Crowley ISD leaders want to manage it wisely.
“We will wait until we see houses and rooftops before we actually start building,” the superintendent said. “We know it’s coming, but we still have to have some evidence so that we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.