Another Town Hall meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at First Baptist Church’s The ROC, 116 Putman St, with Sulphur Springs ISD Superintendent Michael Lamb and Trustee Robert Cody slated to discuss the SSISD bond election with the community. Anyone who has questions or comments about the bond proposal is encouraged to attend the meeting for answers and additional information.
The SSISD Board of Trustees on Aug. 22, for the second time this year, called for a bond election. The first election proposed $93 million in campus improvements, additions and several new buses; it was defeated May 7, 2022, with 958 Sulphur Springs ISD voters in favor of and 1,195 against the $93 million proposal for school improvements and renovations. The second proposal trimmed the original proposal down; voters are now asked to consider approving an $81.5 million bond proposal during the Nov. 8, 2022 election.
The Overall Plan
School trustees note that the primary reasons for the bond proposal are the age of district facilities and continued costs for repairs, improvements to make campuses ADA/TAS compliant and more safe and secure, and renovations to better meet district needs and ventilation guidelines for restrooms or kitchens.
The original proposal was devised by a committee which included district, parent and community members who evaluated the condition of district campuses, then made recommendations for the top needs. The smaller proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot scaled back the areas the district would use the funding to address, keeping in mind information and comments from community members during and immediately following the May 7 election.
A 30-year facilities upkeep and improvement plan was also created, then, amended in late spring and during the summer, taking into consideration advice and concerns expressed by the community during the May election period.
The Nov. 8, 2022, bond proposal allocates $39.5 million to construct a new Travis Primary campus. Seven of the 10 district facilities are over 60 years old, putting them past the recommended or expected lifespan for school facilities. In fact, all except two SSISD facilities are over 40 years old — Middle School has been open for 9 years and Barbara Bush Primary 25 years. In fact, the average age of SSISD campuses is 49.
Only the SSISD administration campus, at 100. Travis has been in operation for 67 years and is experiencing multiple issues, including a need to update access to power for technology used in the classroom. Contractors hired to help SSISD with the bond and, if it passes, construction process, commended the district maintenance for their upkeep of the facilities, which have allowed them to remain in operation years after most other school facilities across the state and country have been retired.
The new Travis campus as proposed would likely be constructed at the end of the current SSES property, where the track and field are located, facing Texas Street with a cut through between it and the SSES campus to help with traffic flow around the schools.
The current SSES campus has been allocated $5 million, if the bond proposal passes on Nov. 8, to upgrade security by reconfiguring the front entrance and office area. The reconfiguration would be done over one summer, so as not to disrupt classes. The 4th-5th grade campus also would get a new roof and building updates as needed.
Also proposed is $10 million worth of work at Bowie Primary. Planned are eight additional classrooms, additional cafeteria space and improved pick-up and drop-off areas. This addition would be constructed near the current building, on the Bowie Primary property off Mockingbird Lane and Duckworth Street.
Another $25 million of the proposed $81.5 million bond proposal would go to Sulphur Springs High School. The current front entrance and surrounding area would be renovated for additional space. A new front office and security vestibule would be installed, making the front entrance on Houston Street (the side where students currently enter the school). The reconfiguration on the Connnally Street side of hte property could be conducted while classes are in session without too much disruption, officials reported at a Sept. 17 town hall meeting.
SSHS would receive a fine arts addition, which would provide designated rooms in the current facility for the drill team, a third art classroom and similar programs. High School also needs a new roof. The campus also would see some painting and parking upgrades as needed, funding allowing.
Another million dollars from the bond would would go to Barbara Bush Primary to improve parking and a toward a new intercom system.
The final $1 million would allow the district to finance 10 new buses, replacing buses that have been experiencing mechanical break-downs. The district has a bus replacement plan, but the SSISD budget hasn’t always stretched annually included a couple of new buses. The buses would be funded through a separate bond sale, and financed over the course of 5-10 years.
If the proposed $81.5 million bond does not pass, administrators said the district will need to redirect educational funds used for instructional programs to fund increased building maintenance costs.
Tax and Financial Impacts
If the voters approve the bond proposal on Nov. 8, 2022, there will be a 1 cent increase in the district tax rate. School tax rates consist of two different components, the maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate and the Interest & Sinking (I&S) tax, property owners would pay per $100 property valuation.
The M&O rate is used to operate the school district, including salaries, utilities, furniture, supplies, food, gas, etc. The I&S rate is used to pay off school construction bonds. Bond sales only affect the I&S rate.
Due to the complicated formula the state has devised to figure tax rates, which must be kept below certain rates, the school tax rate has declined regularly over the past four years, down from $1.35 per $100 valuation. Even with the 1 cent I&S bond increase, the SSISD tax rate would still be the lowest it has been in 13 year.
Citizens ages 65 and older may apply for a homestead exemption. Under state law, the dollar amount of school taxes imposed on the residence homestead of a person 65 years of age or older cannot be increased above the amount paid in the first year after the person turned 65 or disabled. In order to receive this tax exemption, the taxpayer must apply for the exemption. That doesn’t mean the resident’s tax bill will stay the same. A resident’s tax bill could go down with a decrease in tax rates or appraisals, and then go up to the frozen amount.
To download Form 50-114, the Residence Homestead Exemption Application with instructions, click here, or select that option on the bond website, https://www.sulphurspringsisdbond.com/ and select the form.
The tax rates on homes valued at $125,000-$300,000, which are eligible for the $40,000 homestead exemption, would increase $0.70-$2.16 monthly.
The SSISD tax rate approved by trustees on Aug. 22, 2022, was $1.1651 per $100 cash valuation, with $0.31050 gong toward debt service and $0.85460 toward maintenance and operations, for tax year 2022.
Any businesses with 313 Agreements with SSISD would still be required to pay their full I&S taxes. The tax incentive would only apply to M&O taxes owed.
If the bond passes, plans to get all of the required documents in order are expected to take 8-9 months before construction can begin. New construction is estimated to take about 18 months. That would mean about 24 months before the new school could possibly be ready. If it passes, architects anticipate having the design completed by the end of the year for new facilities, provided there are no supply chain delays or delay in start of construction while contractors finish other projects so they are free to start building new SSISD facilities.
Costs for projected projects are figured based on other similar construction projects the construction manager has been involved with, plus current rates of inflation. If that goes up more and quicker than anticipated, the plans would likely be scaled down to fit the budget..
Any new facilities and construction too would be build in a way that they could be added onto, should the district experience a sudden population boom which would require additional facilities sooner than anticipated.
For additional information, community members are encouraged to attend the Oct. 4 Town Hall meeting, where they will be given an opportunity to ask questions related to the bond proposal and election. Questions may also be submitted online by selecting Contact on the www.sulphurspringsisdbond.com website, or by contacting administrators by phone at 903-885-2153 or at the SSISD Administration Building, 631 Connally St. during regular school business hours.