A school bond issue? We have questions

July 20, 2013

It’s been about eight years since Granbury school district voters were asked to approve a bond issue. Voters did not favor the proposal, but school officials are hopeful that voters will see the need this time when they cast ballots, possibly this November.

Meanwhile, issues are out there, and questions must be addressed.

Here are some we floated to school Public Information Officer Jeff Meador:

Why is the school board considering a bond election?

The school board is considering a bond election to fund capital improvements for aging facilities and other projects that the school district cannot finance through its normal operating budget. Granbury High School was built in the early 1970s and has not been renovated in almost 20 years. The curriculum we offer now compared to then – prior to extensive use of the Internet and other technology – has changed and requires different facilities and technology. All campuses also need network infrastructure and security updates. Facility and technology needs were examined during the strategic planning initiative undertaken last school year, and most of the possible projects are from that process. Action teams of parents, community members, teachers and principals evaluated an ongoing list of facility and technology needs and developed others as they met six times during the spring.

When would it be and where?

The school board will make a final decision on calling a bond election in late August. However, if trustees vote to proceed, an election could be held as early as November.

Who’s eligible to vote?

Any registered voter in Granbury ISD will be eligible to cast a vote.

Will my taxes go up if the bond issue passes?

If a bond is passed, property taxes will increase for some. For example, if a bond package of $60 million is approved, the taxes on the average residence would increase about $5 per month. However, existing state law freezes the tax rate of homeowners 65 years of age or older. Senior citizens who file their exemption will not have to pay any additional property taxes associated with this bond proposal.

A school survey shows that the bond proposal doesn’t exactly have overwhelming support from voters. What is the school’s reaction to the survey?

The survey actually showed majority support for a bond initiative. While survey respondents were least likely to favor the largest option, smaller packages garnered much more support. Respondents also highly favored a number of the possible projects, such as the high school renovation, expansion of career and technical education instructional areas, improved technology and campus security improvements.

What are some of the specific proposals being considered and why?

Not every project will be included in a final proposal. A bond steering committee is currently meeting to review the possibilities and make a recommendation to the school board for a reasonable package.

The high school has growing programs, like career and technical education and fine arts, that need building enhancements and expansion beyond the existing facility. All schools require technology infrastructure improvements that will allow students to learn best with innovative model classrooms. In addition, campus security needs to be bolstered to provide safe and secure environments for students and staff.

Possible projects under consideration are: renovations to Granbury High School including the addition of a freshman wing, career and technical education center, fine arts renovation and addition and a practice gym; improved safety and security for all campuses with controlled entry vestibules and reconfiguration of office areas; repurposing Crossland Ninth Grade Center as an administration facility; major district-wide technology infrastructure improvements and other upgrades to allow for state-of-the-art classrooms with optimal equipment and for students to bring their own devices; severe weather areas for all campuses; band equipment replacement; renovation of some locker rooms; replacement of about one-third of older school buses; and classroom furniture.

Is the school still paying on old bond issues? If so, how much is owed, when were the bonds passed and what was the money used on?

The school district continues to pay on the principal balance for a bond passed in 1999 for the construction of the middle schools but also included expansions at some elementary campuses. Those bonds are scheduled to mature in 2029. The current GISD debt tax rate of 10.5 cents is very low compared to area districts: Burleson (50 cents), Lipan (21.9 cents), Tolar (29.1 cents), Weatherford (23 cents). This rate is per $100 of property valuation.

When was the last bond issue? What was it for and what were the results?

In 2005, voters did not approve a bond proposal for high school renovations and other projects.

Based on the survey, the school has to persuade a number of voters for the bond issue to pass. Some of the negative talk is about the decision to put artificial turf on the high school football field. How does the school defend that expenditure?

The stadium turf likely would not been approved if it was a stand-alone project. Due to the way the project is being financed through an energy conservation project and the savings built in, the actual out-of-pocket cost of the stadium turf will be around $415,000. This amounts to a 50 percent savings of what a new field would cost by itself. Consequently, the district is not actually paying the full amount of the field turf.

Less maintenance requirements will allow the field to be used regularly by a number of students beyond just football and soccer teams. Subvarsity teams will be able to utilize the fields along with the band, drill team, JROTC and other school groups. The field will become an outdoor classroom utilized much more than once or twice a week for competitions.

What’s the school’s reaction when people say too much money is spent on sports?

No significant athletic projects are being considered for this bond initiative. The only item under consideration would be improvements for aging locker room facilities.

Although athletics is regularly questioned when discussing school budgets, GISD spends less than 2 percent of the operating budget in this area.

Extracurricular activities – including athletics – and career and technical education programs are big incentives to keep kids in school and for them to complete their high school education. Moreover, many parents, family members and community members regularly come to our schools for sporting and fine arts events.

What are the enrollment numbers in the last five years?

May 2013 – 6,456

May 2012 – 6,459

May 2011 – 6,455

May 2010 – 6,515

May 2009 – 6,757

How do we know that students are receiving a good education in the Granbury school district?

State test scores indicate that Granbury students performed above others in the state and region as recent as this spring.

Nowhere in these results, though, are any indication of the quality programs, dual credit hours, extra and co-curricular successes, and many other skills we believe we are teaching in GISD to prepare our students for life after high school. We certainly expect our students to do well on any measure, but these test results are only a small indication of the success of our schools.

Through innovative programs, like Project Lead The Way and Formula 1 in Schools, high school and middle school students are exploring engineering, architecture, and design while strengthening skills in creativity, problem solving and teamwork through hand-on learning activities. Sweepstakes-winning choirs and bands showcase musical talent, and theater productions entertain audiences with incredible performances. In addition, 15 of 16 varsity athletic squads qualified for post-season action.

Granbury took two teams to national competitions, several groups to state tournaments and meets, and students continue to thrive in all areas. Moreover, over the last four years, Granbury High School graduates received over $22 million in scholarship awards to help finance their post-high school education. Granbury graduates have amazing opportunities because of the education they receive here, and we continue to hear about their honors and accomplishments in a variety of fields following graduation.

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