Monday, October 12, 2009
Wylie ISD trying to pass bond package for third time in a year
It was back in November 2008 when the voters faced two propositions from the Wylie ISD.
You can't fault the Wylie ISD trustees for lacking in perseverance. So far, they've tried twice in less than a year to get the voters to approve their bond package, only to be turned down.
On November 3 they will try one more time.
It was back in November 2008 when the voters faced two propositions from the Wylie ISD. One asked voters to approve $98.3 million in bonds, the second asked the voters to approve raising their taxes so that teachers and staff could get salary increases.
The results were interesting. 52% of the voters supported the tax hike, while 52% of the voters rejected the bonds. (Political analysts I've talked to say such a vote split indicates that voters support the idea of good schools, but don't trust their elected school board.)
In May, the school board tried again. This time, they tried harder.
First, they trimmed the bond request by $13.8 million -- down to a total of $84.5 million.
They also pulled an old trick out of their hat. Knowing that May elections have very low turnouts, the board tried to make it very easy to get all district employees to vote. What they did was to designate every school in the district as an early voting location for one day. These early voting polls were manned by WISD staff, but were still expensive, costing the taxpayers an additional $13,403.32 in voting machine rentals and county tabulation expense. The total out-of-pocket cost to WISD taxpayers for the May election was a whopping $21,287.74 for an election that should have cost about $7 thousand.
But still the voters refused to approve the bonds. The proposition failed in a 51% - 49% vote. Only 69 votes separated the "ayes" from the "nays."
On the first Tuesday in November, Wylie voters will once again choose whether to accept or reject a WISD bond issue. This time, responding to voter demands that the board break up the bond package into several propositions, the trustees are asking for approval of 3 different bond packages -- totaling almost $77 million.
The three propositions on the ballot are:
"THE ISSUANCE OF $7,775,000 OF BONDS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE FOR FIBER OPTIC AND SECURITY UPGRADES AT ALL CAMPUSES AND IMPROVEMENTS TO THE WYLIE STADIUMS AND LEVYING THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF, INCLUDING THE COSTS OF ANY CREDIT AGREEMENTS EXECUTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE BONDS."
|Fiber Optic Ring/Security Upgrades for all campuses||$ 2,681,300|
|Wylie Pirate Stadium (Constructed in 2003)||$ 3,612,100|
|Shaffer Stadium (Constructed in 1975)||$ 1,481,600|
"THE ISSUANCE OF $24,940,000 OF BONDS FOR ADDITIONS AND RENOVATIONS TO BURNETT JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, HARRISON INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL, HARTMAN, BIRMINGHAM AND AKIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF ACHIEVE ACADEMY AND LEVYING THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF, INCLUDING THE COSTS OF ANY CREDIT AGREEMENTS EXECUTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE BONDS."
|Burnett Junior High School Additions and Renovations (Constructed in 1975)||$ 8,477,700|
|Harrison Intermediate School Infrastructure and Renovations (Constructed in 1967)||$ 2,586,100|
|Hartman Elementary School Additions, Renovations and Infrastructure (Constructed in 1963)||$ 4,800,300|
|Birmingham Elementary School Additions, Renovations and Infrastructure (Constructed in 1985)||$ 4,009,300|
|Akin Elementary School Kitchen Additions and Renovations (Constructed in 1988)||$ 1,023,000|
|Achieve Academy*||$ 4,043,600|
"THE ISSUANCE OF $44,250,000 OF BONDS FOR ADDITIONS, CONVERSIONS AND ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS TO WYLIE EAST HIGH SCHOOL AND ADDITIONS, RENOVATIONS, INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES AND ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS AT WYLIE HIGH SCHOOL AND LEVYING THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF, INCLUDING THE COSTS OF ANY CREDIT AGREEMENTS EXECUTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE BONDS"
Wylie High School (Constructed in 1996)
Wylie East High School (Core facility was constructed in 2006)
The trustees say that the bonds are needed to ensure equitability between schools on the east side of town and schools on the west side of town. They point out that the voters wanted the bond issues split up and they were. Most of the campuses slated for renovation are 20 to 40 years old and sorely need modernization. The additions to the new Wylie East High School should not come as a surprise, they argue, since the school was purposely financed and built in phases in order to spread out the expenses.
The WISD bonds page FAQ states that, "The Wylie ISD Board of Trustees has listened to the community and responded with a reduced bond proposal that is presented in three propositions. In this referendum, many of the projects included in the two unsuccessful bonds have been moderated and or postponed until a later bond to respond to the Wylie community while still meeting the educational needs of Wylie students."
However, putting the stadiums in with IT improvements may cause Prop 1 to fail. While of the $44.2 million is in Prop 3, more than $15.5 is for athletic facility improvements and bound to stir up cost conscious taxpayers.
It's not too surprising that opposition has already mobilized. Driving around Wylie, one sees many "Vote NO" yard signs, but few pro bond signs.
The only other items on the November ballot are constitutional amendments. So far these amendments ave been non-controversial, so a very light voter turnout is expected. Predicting the outcome of very low turnout election elections is dangerous. The general rule is, "he who turns out his voters, wins." If the school district can mobilize its own employees and parent organizations, it can get the bonds to pass. Otherwise, the weak economy will make it easy for cash-strapped voters to view the bonds as "just another tax increase."
Pegasus News Content partner - The Collin County Observer
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