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SMARTGrowth and the LISD

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Flower Mound public school students have two “guardian” entities. One guardian—the town municipal government– oversees the school building’s infrastructure needs, water, sewer, safe and adequate roads to travel to and from their homes; and the fire and police departments to ensure their safety.

To address those infrastructure needs, the Flower Mound SMARTGrowth Program is a comprehensive, community-based growth management strategy to translate and enact the Town’s Master Plan into constitutive development criteria.

The SMARTGrowth Program was adopted on January 11, 1999 and the SMARTGrowth Management Plan was adopted on February 17, 2000, with amendments and updates adopted on July 15, 2002.

The 29 SMARTGrowth criteria are grouped into six general categories: adequate public infrastructure; adequate public facilities; adequate public services; economic development; environmental quality; and community character.

The SMARTGrowth Commission was created in 2000 and consists of all Planning and Zoning Commissioners, plus one representative each from the real estate community and the development community.

The most recent amendment on the “public schools” plan was adopted on December 17, 2012.

Prior to that December vote, Town Attorney Terry Welch told the town council that the original “public schools” component addressed an over-capacity issue for the school districts as an infrastructure component. That was when the population grew at more than 250-percent and LISD—which is state-mandated to educate all students in its district– needed the protection of guaranteed infrastructure to support its expanding need for schools.

The original school’s component stated that no residential project can be approved without a written certification from the specific school district that the potential students impacting schools will not exceed, or are not expected to exceed, 110-percent of their campus’ student attendance capacity.

Since then, the districts have matched the population growth and subsequent shifts in attendance by building new campuses and rezoning campus boundaries for new and existing schools.  In recent years, LISD, Flower Mound’s primary school district, has had ample total capacity but, in some instances, not at a specific school like McKamy Middle School.  Due to other considerations, LISD did not always address specific school capacity issues, opting instead to operate at or near capacity in those schools.  This led to a disconnect with Flower Mound’s SMARTGrowth program.

Under the amended version of SMARTGrowth a residential development in Flower Mound won’t fail the SMARTGrowth analysis and be denied if the number of students it is expected to generate surpasses the 110-percent threshold. However, the town will formally communicate residential development applications to Flower Mound students’ second guardian entities—the affected school districts.  If requested by the affected school district, the town must help the school district obtain needed infrastructure.

“Yes, the Town of Flower Mound and LISD both serve the town’s students, but the school district boundaries don’t follow each city or town boundary,” said LISD Board of Trustees President Carol Kyer. “As an example, Marcus High School has students from Highland Village, Copper Canyon, Double Oak and Lewisville, not just Flower Mound. In addition, LISD has students who live in The Colony and Carrollton.”

She added that trustees understand that while individuals may not feel favorable to a rezoning result, the board members do their best to retain a “neighborhood” school boundary zone in a fiscally responsible way.

Not balancing the district’s students throughout the existing campuses—retaining over-crowded classes at one school while another school has low attendance numbers—is not in any of the students’ best educational interest or the best use of tax dollars.

“The reason Flower Mound has a lower tax rate is because we share a tax base with Lewisville and Carrolton,” said Kyer. “Some Flower Mound residents have talked about leaving LISD to start a separate district. It’s a long drawn-out process to meet a list of criteria, one of which is a tax threshold. If Flower Mound residents wanted to start a separate school district, they’d first have to pay for the buildings and reimburse LISD for the bond issues. That’s just the financial beginning.”

According to the Education Code of Texas, the process is long and difficult and starts with the County Commissioners of Denton and Tarrant Counties and the four school districts operating in Flower Mound (Lewisville, Argyle, Denton and Northwest ISD).  It requires an election where the majority of at least 25-percent of all voters in the impacted school districts agree to release Flower Mound.

“It’s important for voters to understand that whether Flower Mound was to start its own district or not, the Town Council has no influence over LISD rezoning decisions,” said Kyer. “If people want to influence educational matters, they should run for a seat on the Board of Trustees.”

 

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