Enthusiasm for School Bond Is Unanimous
Enthusiasm for School Bond Is Unanimous
Board members for the Wichita Falls ISD voted unanimously Thursday, Feb. 26, in a special session to bring the bond before the community in a vote Saturday, May 9.
The bond will provide the community with a Career and Technical Education Center ($35.7 million), additions and renovations at all three junior high schools ($25 million), security improvements at existing facilities ($500,000), technology infrastructure improvements ($500,000), and Memorial Stadium parking and restroom improvements ($1.75 million).
The total cost of all projects is $63.5 million. However, WFISD board members will dedicate $4 million from the district’s fund balance toward the projects, which will lower the bond cost for voters to $59.5 million.
Tax impact of $6.99 extra per month
Passage of the bond will create an additional tax impact of $6.99 per month for community members who own an average sized home appraised at $98,958.
The current two-pronged WFISD tax rate of $1.135 recently dropped from $1.205 when WFISD paid off old debt.
Lowest tax rate among neighboring districts
The current rate of $1.135 per $100 valuation ranks as the lowest tax rate among six local school districts. Even with the proposed increase after the bond’s passage, WFISD’s higher tax rate of $1.21982 will continue to rank at the bottom among its neighboring districts.
Tax rates for Holliday ISD ($1.48), City View ISD ($1.42), Electra ISD ($1.314), Burkburnett ISD ($1.31) and Iowa Park ISD ($1.27) are higher than WFISD’s current tax rate of $1.135 and will remain higher than the proposed increased tax rate of $1.21982.
Property taxes for citizens 65 years or older with homestead exemptions are not affected by any tax increase associated with this bond.
Preparing lifelong learners
WFISD is championing the need for the bond projects as part of its district goal of preparing its students to be lifelong learners, according to Corgan Associates’ Steve Halsey in a presentation to board members Thursday.
The construction of a Career and Technical Education Center, which is at the centerpiece of the bond, will give WFISD the ability to deliver the career education endorsements required by House Bill 5.
District officials are collaborating now with community members, businesses, industry, Vernon College and Midwestern State University to determine the exact programs to offer at the career center.
Complete the transition to middle schools
By using bond funds to also renovate and enlarge the junior high schools to include sixth-graders, the district will complete its transition to middle schools. The middle school feeder program will complement the new initiatives at the high schools, Halsey said.
The Career and Technical Education Center was broadly supported last year when it was a piece of a larger bond package that voters did not pass, said WFISD Superintendent John Frossard.
District officials have confirmed through community meetings and a telephone survey that the support for the CTE Center is still there, he said.
Chamber of Commerce Supports Bond
The Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce has also rallied behind the center, said Dr. Frossard.
WFISD is seeking collaboration with Vernon College as it selects programs for the career center “to make sure it gets plenty of use in the day and in the evening,” he said. The next step in its design will be to tap teachers and staff members for input on design.
“It moves us a huge step forward”
This bond will touch every student in WFISD, said board member Elizabeth Yeager. “The CTE facility will do a lot to provide opportunities for post graduate careers or college,” she said. “It moves us a huge step forward for not a lot of money.”
Board member Bob Payton did not attend the meeting because he was traveling for work but sent a statement, saying he “fully endorsed” bringing the bond to voters. The bond package aligned with the community input board members have received, he said.
“This is the correct plan”
Board member Dale Harvey told board members that it was “vitally important to move forward with the correct plan. I believe this is the correct plan,” he said. “It’s definitely something I will endorse and support.”
“A great day for Wichita Falls”
Board member Rev. Reginald Blow dubbed Thursday “a great day for Wichita Falls.” The bond will not only help WFISD students but will make Wichita Falls a more attractive city, he said.
“It’s a clear signal that Wichita Falls is interested in changing,” he said. No longer will students have to go elsewhere to learn viable and productive skills and use them fully, he said.
“We have to do it”
Board member Kevin Goldstein said the mindset of House Bill 5 had changed the way schools must deliver education, which was driving the need for the CTE Center. “We have to do it,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it. It will be a tremendous benefit over the career center we currently have.”
Even though WFISD is the largest district in the area, it spends less on improving its schools than surrounding districts, Goldstein said. Neighboring school districts all “have something new,” he said. “I’m excited about the future of Wichita Falls for what they’re going to receive. I fully support this bond and am looking forward to May 9.”
“Extremely small price to pay”
Board member Bill Franklin said the bond, which was vitally important to the community and students, had been vitally important to him when he ran his election to sit on the school board. This bond will re-energize the community because it will help provide a skilled workforce that industry needs, he said. “It is a tax increase, but it is a small tax increase. It’s an extremely small price to pay for better education.”
“Versatile, flexible facility”
Board President Trey Sralla said he took auto mechanics during his senior year of high school, then went on to college. He learned great skills from longtime CTE teacher Dan Shores that he still uses today, he said. The career center will be a versatile, flexible facility that will allow WFISD to develop cutting edge programs for years to come, he said.
The unanimous vote to call the bond was 6-0. Board member Bob Payton was unable to attend the meeting.