There is no doubt Allen has experienced rampant population growth over the past few decades, so the school district is building a new bus barn. Rather than renovate the existing facility, bureaucrats naturally want to instead build a brand new $40 million structure.
The new complex, proposed by the Allen ISD board, is a 130,000 sq. ft. facility spread across a 42-acre lot with parking for 120 buses and 200 employee vehicles, bus maintenance center, and warehouse facility.
The cost of what some in Allen call a ‘Taj Mahal’ bus barn? A cool $40 million.
(And let’s not forget this is the same ISD whose board pushed to build a new $60 million football stadium in the preamble to the budget crunch of 2010/11.)
Adding insult to injury, in addition to the $40 million initial investment, it’s estimated that the new facility will erode property values by $47 million.
So the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is: why isn’t renovating the old facility an option?
Looking back, Allen ISD doesn’t have a strong track record of fiscal responsibility.
This year, the board has proved itself incapable of managing the district’s budget, resulting in the elimination of between 70 and 80 teaching positions (at the same time their superintendent makes $225,000 a year, while less than 40% of expenditures make it into the classroom). Also, over the past three years, the board has repeatedly taken money from reserve funds to balance its budget.
Despite pushing massive spending on stadiums and bus depots, Allen ISD Administration has trumpeted the claims (similar to that of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus) that without significant new revenues, Allen ISD will grind to a halt. Of course the board recently increased property taxes by 13 cents to a $1.17 per $100 of appraisal values, the largest single year increase permitted by Texas law.
The biggest slap in the face to taxpayers, however, is Allen ISD’s decision to join the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s school financing system. There’s plenty of money for a new bus barn and a football stadium that rivals most college fields, but when it comes to actually educating students, it’s the state’s fault for the lack of available instructional funding.
For a district poised to spend up to $100 million on unnecessary capital improvements while less than 40% of its education dollars are spent on actual instruction, it is clear that Allen ISD’s fiscal problems have nothing to do with needing more revenue. Much like the State of Texas, Allen ISD does not have a revenue problem it has a spending problem.
At this point, the only thing Allen ISD really needs is a new school board.