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Higher Housing Prices Blamed For Slowing Frisco ISD Enrollment

FRISCO (CBS11) - When Jason Lester moved back to North Texas from Cincinnati, he and his family chose Frisco like so many other families. "We have family members who live in Frisco and also because of the school district."

Frisco ISD is set to have more than 58,000 students this year.

In 2006, the district had more than 23,000 students.

Records show on average, the district has grown by more than 3,000 students each year for the past ten years.

But Todd Fouche, a deputy superintendent at Frisco ISD, said during the past two years that growth has slowed.

"Last year, we grew by 2,600 students which was about 1,000 less than our demographer projected last year.  And then this year, we think we're going to see about 2,300 to 2,600 more."

He believes rising housing prices are to blame.

"The last five years the price point of new homes has gone up tremendously, and that's keeping people with small kids we think from coming here," said Fouche.

The average price of a newly built house in Frisco is more than $500,000.

Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said the city is still on tap to have more than 2,000 housing starts this year.

"We're still a fast-growing, high demand city," said Mayor Cheney.

Cheney said city leaders have heard from concerned residents, and have taken a number of steps to lessen the blow, including increasing the exemption for seniors from $70,000 to $80,000.

He said the city council also decided to "implement our first homestead exemption, 7.5 percent, and our composed budget right now, that's subject to approval is recommending a reduction in our tax rate. So we're trying to do our part to help our residents with the growing house prices."

Ted Wilson of Residential Strategies in Dallas has analyzed the North Texas housing market for years.

"Affordability is a big issue in Frisco and housing prices aren't going down," said Wilson.

He said there is no housing bubble, and he says the city still has a great housing market, despite a modest slowdown in starts of single-family homes.

Housing starts he said will drop this year from last year: from 1,300 to 1,100 in West Frisco, which is west of Preston Road and from 1,100 to 900 in East Frisco, east of Preston.

But Mayor Cheney, a realtor himself, says within the past year, about 1,000 existing homes sold for less than $400,000.

After Frisco ISD residents rejected a proposed 13-cent tax increase last year, the school district delayed opening four schools by one year, including its tenth high school: Memorial High.

It will reduce the population at three of Frisco's high schools, Heritage, Wakeland and Lone Star, which have more than 2,100 students this year.

"We will be ready for Memorial to open this time next year. It's always nice when one high school can relieve three," said Fouche.

Now one year after Frisco ISD's tax election failed, there could be a big change.

The district is asking the community: Do they still want small high schools limited to 2,100 students?

Fouche said the community decided to go with the small high-school model 25 years ago.

He said the tax election triggered officials to ask the question again. "Lots of people moved in. This community has changed dramatically and is this what the community still wants?"

The district is in the process of forming a long range planning committee consisting of 50 people from around Frisco.

Hundreds of people have already applied for a spot on the committee, and the last day to apply on the Frisco ISD website is September 5.

Fouche said the district hopes to know where the community stands on the issue by this January or February.

The school board will then make a decision whether to change the size of Frisco's high schools.

Jason Lester said he doesn't know what will happen. "It's a hard question to answer at this point."

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