By Jacob Sturm
Feb. 14 of next year will be a critical moment for the voters of Mustang.
Following a discussion at the Mustang Board of Education meeting, members of the board agreed to send the Momentum23 School Bond issue to a vote set for Feb. 14 of 2023.
The investment program will cost a total of $180.9 million if passed by voters. For homeowners with a $100,000 home, that would be around $21.96 in additional property tax per year.
Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Dr. Jason Pittenger, and Mustang’s Superintendent, Charles Bradley, presented the board members with the bond plan on Dec. 12.
“Growth has been impacting us for many years, and that is the reason that dictates the need for the bond issue that we’re talking about today,” Bradley said.
He said the total district population was 9,204 in 2012 and has grown to 13,550.
“Just in a 10-year span, we’ve gained over 4,000 students,” Bradley said to the board. “As we look to the future, the next 10 years, there’s every indication that we are going to continue to grow.”
According to MPS, a recent demographic study showed that Mustang’s enrollment is expected to increase to 19,780 students in the next nine years, marking a massive 46% increase from the current school year.
Bradley said the MPS philosophy for bonds will be changing. He said the district will go to a phased approach to continue building the momentum of the district.
That doesn’t mean the previous approach for bonds had been wrong. In fact, Bradley said the long-range planning committee looked at numerous options during previous bonding.
“We recognize that as a growing district, we still has needs that could only be met through the student investment plan,” Bradley said.
So, what is a phased approach?
The approach has the district planning for two more future bond issues (2027 and 2031) and will assess the needs the district has at a future date. The plan, according to Bradley, will accomplish addressing the growth of the students in the district, being flexible to address needs more close to the time they arise and maintaining fiscal responsibility.
“We are being trusted with community money, and we want to make sure we’re doing the absolute best we can,” Bradley said. “One of those responsibilities is going to be what can we do to pay off debt faster while still trying to accomplish addressing the growth and being flexible.”
The 2023 bond would be asking for funds for the building and creation of Elementary School No. 9, High School expansion, safety and security, a Mustang Elementary Safety Corridor, Playground Refresh, Transportation and recurring dollars the district would need every year.
“What is the key takeaway here?” Pittenger said. “We’re growing fastest at the High School Level and at the Elementary. We urgently need that space. Safety is on everyone’s mind, and we can never be safe enough. In this phase, Mustang Elementary gets the connected corridor. This lays the ground for 2027 projects.”
“Equipment needs to be relevant and safe,” Pittenger said. “We want that safety to begin with the first interaction we have with our kiddos on a daily basis, and that’s on the bus. Retiring older buses and upgrading safety equipment is an ongoing need. Recurring dollars are the lifeblood of any school district from an operational perspective. We need those dollars to stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer, (and) interact in a technologically connected world where programs and opportunities change the lives of kids, giving them hope for a better future as we keep on moving with a little momentum.”
The most recent bond issue Mustang has voted on came in 2017, which included a total of 35 projects.
The voter registration deadline is Jan. 20, deadlines to request an absentee ballot is Jan. 30 and early voting is Feb. 9-10.
Bond issues require a 60% supermajority to pass. Anyone in the 72 square mile district can vote.
MPS will continually be updating patrons on the bond. For those with additional questions, visit www.mustangps.org or https://www.mustangps.org/departments/bonds-contruction to learn more about the Momentum23 Bond. People are also encouraged to reach out to MERCcontact@mustangps.org for additional help.