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El Paso City Rep. questions if school district encourages costly sprawl

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Apr 24 2014 07:26:20 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2014 12:52:57 AM CDT

City Rep. questions if school district encouraging sprawl

EL PASO, Texas -

An El Paso city representative recently questioned if the Socorro Independent School District is contributing to costly sprawl.

"Anytime you go out there - you can go out there and see schools where there's still no homes there but they expect schools to go out there. Well, I think they're encouraging homes to go out there," said City Rep. Michiel Noe in a recent live taping of ABC-7 Xtra. He was referring to schools in the fringes of El Paso's east side.

The City has been grappling to find the best method to pay for providing water and sewer services to neighborhoods in the outskirts of the City. Currently, developers pay impact fees to the City that fund 75% of the water and sewer infrastructure required for the neighborhoods they build farther away. El Paso Water Utilities rate payers subsidize the other 25% through their water bills.

The biggest growth is taking place in El Paso's Eastside, where Socorro ISD has built schools to place students in the new neighborhoods.

During Xtra, Noe said the Socorro ISD may be enticing residents to the expensive sprawl. "I don't think developers would build homes if there weren't schools there. People are looking for neighborhoods with good schools. If there's no schools out there, I don't think developers would build out there."

Socorro ISD's Assistant Superintendent, Pat O'Neill said SISD is not luring people to live in the fringes of the City, but rather keeping up with inevitable growth. "We do an extensive study (before building a new school). We work with the City. We sit in on planning meetings. We see where are the new neighborhoods going to be developed. Where have the developers applied to build new homes. And then we project with that area to see exactly where the growth is going to be."

O'Neill added that waiting for homes to be built before building a school would be problematic. "You can't wait until they're (homes) already there because then you're behind. If you wait until they're there and then you don't have schools what are you going to do with those students? So you have to project a little bit. But as far as opening schools in open areas and then the homes come, that has not been the case in our area."

Noe, on Xtra, said: "I'm not trying to disrespect the school districts because their job is to plan for growth, too. If they feel that homes are going to go up there anyway, they want to be there. But still they're contributing to it."

Not all of Socorro ISD is growing in numbers. The older and more established Montwood and Americas neighborhoods are also dealing with stagnant school enrollment. That's because those older neighborhoods have fewer school-age children, according to O'Neill.

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