Despite groundbreaking ceremonies just months ago, Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD) finds itself grappling with budgetary challenges in its 2023 bond program. The overspending has raised concerns among some taxpayers who feel the district may be straying from the promised financial parameters.
Missouri City resident Yvonne Smith urged vigilance, stating, “Keep an eye on the money. Us as taxpayers, we’re already giving a lot of money. But, you’re going to ask for more, but you told us this is what it would be, and now you’re saying, ‘I need more.'”
Vashon Reynolds, another Missouri City resident, echoed similar sentiments, questioning the district’s request for additional funds when it had assured taxpayers of specific project costs.
One of the inaugural ventures under the 2023 bond program, the construction of Briargate Elementary School, is already facing cost overruns. Last week, the school board approved an extra $14 million expenditure on the project to ensure its timely completion next fall. However, this approval came with a caveat from board members that more funding requests might be imminent.
During a board meeting, Sonya Jones sought clarification on potential budgetary issues, asking, “Let’s put this on record. Are there any projects that you can foresee that may be over budget that we haven’t discussed or haven’t come before us yet?” A school leader responded, admitting concerns about some projects exceeding their allocated budgets.
With Briargate Elementary currently 11% over budget, the implications for taxpayers are substantial, considering the voters had greenlit a $1.2 billion bond. If other projects follow a similar trajectory, the additional financial burden on taxpayers could reach $130 million.
Fort Bend ISD Deputy Superintendent Steven Bassett acknowledged the need for cost reduction, stating, “We do think there are ways to bring the numbers down. Whether or not it’s going to be enough, we just don’t know right now.”
Efforts to obtain comments from school board members proved unsuccessful, as they referred ABC13 to board president Judy Dae, who did not respond.
In response to the budget concerns, a district spokesperson released a statement, noting that FBISD faces construction inflation issues similar to other Texas school districts. The statement mentioned ongoing efforts to conduct value engineering, realign scope-to-budget, and reforecast to ensure projects meet high standards at economical costs.
Despite concerns over potential future requests for additional funds, some residents, like Vashon Reynolds, expressed a willingness to support the projects if they benefit the community and the students.
As FBISD grapples with unforeseen budget challenges, the community eagerly anticipates the completion of new schools. However, the ultimate cost may surpass what taxpayers had originally approved just months ago.