School board

On Monday night at a special meeting, the Liberty Hill Independent School District approved an election for a $471.1 million bond to fund district projects for the next four years.

Liberty Hill ISD Trustees on Monday, called a bond election for May 6, which if approved by voters, will generate $471.1 million for the district in the form of three different propositions.

The bond – which will not increase the current tax rate – will go toward the construction of new schools, expansion of existing campuses and increasing school safety across the district. The proposal is the result of a five-month study by the LHISD Long Range Planning Committee, which is composed of 90 community members.

Superintendent Steve Snell said it was important to have a diverse cross-section of the community serving on the committee, which proved to be a successful formula for the 2021 bond.

“We wanted to invite the same people back from last time,” he said. “We had about half new this time and half from the last one.”

The committee produced a list of priorities for the district, with the three propositions based on priority, which Snell said was a critical part of the process.

“The committee broke down into subcommittees and did an excellent job of focusing on urgency and need,” he said. “They came up with a list of project needs each subcommittee vetted before they were vetted by the entire committee.”

Director of Planning and Strategic Partnerships Kristin Coulter delivered a presentation Monday, along with committee members Clay Cole, Frank Funk, Zebadiah Miller, Anna Jenkins, Megan Garner and Sam Russo.

Proposition A consists of funding for high school #2, elementary schools #8 and #9, a new transportation building and new maintenance and warehouse buildings, along with significant improvements at Liberty Hill High School, including cafeteria and Career and Technical Education expansions, a robotics workshop and band hall additions at a cost of $459 million.

Proposition B is for various technology items at a cost of $7.1 million and will go toward instructional devices, as well as network upgrades, technology carts, CTE labs and special education devices.

Proposition C is for improvements at Panther Stadium, with the primary item being replacing the turf field – which has outlasted its expected lifespan of 10 years – along with construction of a new concession stand and additional restrooms on the visiting team's side of the stadium at a cost of $5 million.

Despite the fact the district's second high school was part of the 2021 bond election, it is also included on the 2023 bond proposal due to a philosophy geared toward not only fiscal responsibility, but finishing projects, said Snell.

“Staying within our budget is very important,” he said. “We had 13 projects on the last bond and we've finished 12 of them. As a district, we have hard choices to make. Do we finish projects and make adjustments or do we try to finish all of them at once and have ones that are unfinished? We would rather finish projects.”

The district's second high school – which will be located east of US Highway 183 at the intersection of County Roads 258 and 260 and is scheduled to open in 2026 – was originally budgeted for $145 million, but has since increased to a cost of $310 million, necessitating the need for it to be included on the 2023 bond.

Due to the rapid growth of the district, measures such as these must be taken to remain ahead of the curve, said Snell.

“When you're a fast-growth district, you need to prioritize your needs and tough decisions need to be made,” he said. “Which is what we asked our committee to do and why we wanted it to be made up of people involved with our community to provide assurance with checks and balances that everything we do is what's best for the future of the district.”

Liberty Hill ISD Long Range Planning Committee

Group 1 Academics – Karlyn Keller, Kimberly de la Houssaye, Josh Curtis, Heather Collison, Melissa Revere, Alicia Skalak, Dawn Spivey, Erika Waters, Kristi Hargrove , Clay Cole, Vanessa Masiakowski, Todd Washburn, Joy Hudgens, Mikyela Tedder.

Group 2 Enrichment/Athletics/Fine Arts – Aurora Trahan, Nathan Hohn, Jennifer Jensen, Kris Rich, David Nix, Benete Doerr, Michelle Hawley, Lisa Messana, Bob Mabry, Megan Parsons, Bryon Ellison. 

Group 3 Community/Culture – Monica Miller, Anna Jenkins, Christel Davis, Jori Sitz, Danielle Forshee, Kendell Luedtke, Melanie Bowman, Leslie Tucker-Morris, Nikki Melchor , Grace Lindgren, Katie Amsler, Kathleen Major, Sam Russo, Chrissy Ferguson, Jordan Melchor, Leighton Forshee

Group 4 Facilities/Transportation – Sarah Dyer, Emily Lively, Chris Neighbors, Shelby Russell, Frank Funk, Jonathan Bever, Chelle Harrison, Dustin Akin, Dawn Hudson, Chad Becker, Michael Ferguson, Michael Riley, Aaron Russo, Brandon Pyle, Cory Milam

Group 5 Finance – Zebadiah Miller, Rosanna Guerrero, Katie Rebers, Jamie Etzkorn, Jeb Dixon, Stephanie Netherton, Larry Nicholson, Marc Conselman, Wayne Curry, Heather Pacheco, Kendall Carter

Group 6 Technology – Ryan Garvey, Suzanne Langwell, Audra Cozart, Stephen Messana, Nischay Porwar, Avery Bourgeois, Sheila McKinnis, Scott Stansbury, Jordan Melchor, Megan Garner 

Group 7 Safety & Security – Travis Rhoades, Tanya Lambert, Anthony Buck , Gretchen Peterson, Holly Kociuba, Amy Snell, Melissa Baxley, Stephanie Blay, Robin Benson, Judy Duble, Travis Motal, Woody Sitz, Sharif Mezayek, Brandon Pyle, Terry Smith 

Other District Staff – Steven Snell, Superintendent, Kristin Coulter, Kylie Cortez, Marsha Hood, Melanie Perkins

Traffic report

Liberty Hill ISD commissioned a traffic impact analysis by Langan Engineering, of which the results were shared by representatives from the Austin-based firm.

The study mainly focused on the main driveways leading to schools and the impact they have on the nearest major intersections – such as Loop 332 and Highway 1869, just south of Liberty Hill Elementary.

Langan measured wait times at the intersections during morning, midday and late-afternoon time frames and determined the delays were 28, 19.8 and 64.9 seconds, respectively, for those three time slots.

Recommendations included construction of an eastbound right-turn lane at the intersection or widening of the intersection and including left-turn lanes in all four directions, while adding the addition of a traffic signal would have no impact if the road remained only two lanes in all directions.

While several possible solutions were recommended, the fact remains in order to quell the problem of cars clogging up local roads, all sides involved must work together, said Snell.

“You can't just start pointing fingers at people when it comes to whose fault the traffic is,” he said. “The bottom line is we can't just say things – we needed data to determine the impact our schools have on intersections. Our number one responsibility is to get cars off the road.”

Currently, the district's campuses have each devised methods of stacking vehicles on campus grounds to avoid backups on main roads during drop-off and pick-up times.

According to Snell, each location has its own unique set of challenges.

“Every situation is different,” said Snell. “For example, at Santa Rita Middle School (off Ronald Reagan Blvd.), there was no traffic light, so a temporary signal needed to be put up until a permanent one is.”

As for who should bear the burden of road costs incurred by new schools, Snell said the district will always be agreeable to cohesion between entities.

“We're always open to every conversation, but sharing the cost needs to be an appropriate share,” he said. “We're going to make sure we do what's in the best interests of the taxpayers.”

Board elections

Most notable among the board's action items was a call to hold an election on May 6 for the purpose of electing two trustees for three-year terms.

Place 1 and Place 2, currently held by Terry Smith and Kendall Carter, respectively, are the openings, with the filing deadline on Feb. 17.

Other items

The board also approved the purchase of video surveillance cameras at a cost of $369,000 to be placed across the campuses.

In addition, guaranteed maximum prices were approved for two separate projects across the district.

A cost of $5.2 million was approved for continued expansion at Liberty Hill High School, which will include a 3,800-square foot CTE lab that can be used for multiple purposes, a weight room and a visitors' locker room.

Also, a GMP of $3.1 million was approved for further stadium expansion to include a girls' locker room and four new tennis courts.

The Board of Trustees will hold its regular monthly meeting on Feb. 21.