The board viewed an approximately 30-minute video featuring board President Jeff Rash discussing the $36.2 million bond package, a presentation which will be shown several times at public meetings. It is also available for viewing on the Internet by either (a) going to www.gilmerisd.org and clicking on “GISD bond election”; (b) going to YouTube; or (c) running a search on Google.
The school will furnish DVDs to those without Internet access, and take requests for presentations to even one person, Albritton said. In addition, Albritton said a series of public town meetings on the bond proposal will begin with a 7 p.m. gathering Tuesday at the Gilmer High School gymnasium.
Other such meetings are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 10 at Gilmer Elementary School and Oct. 22 at Bruce Junior High School. Albritton said the district also hopes to hold meetings at the Pritchett Community Center and Glenwood Water Supply Corporation.
While state law restricts the superintendent from campaigning for the bond issue, and prohibits using school resources to promote voting for it, Albritton told The Mirror the school can legally disseminate information on the matter. Frequently asked questions about it will be posted on the Internet, he told trustees.
The $36,210,000 bond package, the centerpiece of which is a proposed new high school, would require a tax increase of 25.35 cents per $100 valuation if all three proposals win passage, according to the video. The school’s current tax rate is $1.185.
Albritton said that taxes on homesteads owned by voters older than age 65 are frozen at no more money than they now pay unless the residence undergoes a major renovation or they buy a new home. However, such taxes on other property they own are not frozen.
Proposition 1 of the bond issue is for a new 122,000-square-foot Gilmer High School and for renovating the upper floor of the 2-story vocational building on the high school campus to house the school district’s administrative offices. The current high school would be demolished once the new one is completed.
Cost of that proposition is $30,690,000 and would require a 21-cent increase in the tax rate.
Proposition 2 is for adding classrooms at Bruce Junior High for science, fine arts, and self-contained classrooms to replace a building reportedly constructed in the 1960s. In addition, the proposition would finance additional parking at the elementary and intermediate campuses.
That $3,365,000 proposal would require a 2.36-cent hike in the tax rate.
Proposition 3, which is for a $2,155,000 “multipurpose facility” at the high school, would not be approved unless Proposition 1 passes. The third proposal would allow indoor practice for extracurricular activities, and prevent having to cancel events due to inclement weather.
It would require a 1.5-cent raise in the tax rate.
Taxes on a $100,000 home, which Albritton said is the average home value for Upshur County, would increase by $215.45 annually if all three proposals pass, according to the video.
At the recording’s conclusion, Rash cites four reasons the board decided to call the bond election now: (1) “We recognize the legitimate need” of facilities for education; (2) The new high school would promote “growth of our local economy”; (3) Due to “inflation rates. . .costs (of doing the projects) will continue to rise every year”; and (4) “Interest rates are at historical lows” with “nowhere to go but up.”
Rash said Gilmer ISD voters rejected a new high school in 1979 when it would have cost less than $4 million, and that the cost has now swelled to $30 million. In 1983, he added, Gladewater ISD passed a $5 million bond issue for a new high school and stadium.
Explaining the rationale for a new high school on the video, Rash said the oldest portion of the current one was built in 1952 (The Mirror’s files show a new high school was actually built in 1950), that the current facility has been remodeled several times, and that “old buildings cost money to maintain.”
He said the roof will soon need replacing, that the air conditioning/heating system will “soon have to be considered” (and that hallways are not heated nor cooled), and that the electrical system can’t accommodate technological needs.
In addition, “our science facilities are out-of-date” and don’t meet Kilgore College’s standard for dual credit courses nor “current safety codes,” Rash said.
He also contended that several classrooms and the cafeteria are too small, that bathrooms and teacher work space are inadequate, and that the campus is hard for law officers to secure because it is spread out.
In addition, the school’s estimated capacity is 695, current enrollment is 680, and the school’s “current design. . .doesn’t allow for growth,” Rash contended.
The board president also detailed at length the honors which the high school has received in academics and extracurricular activities, including its designation by U.S. News and World Report as one of Texas’s top 200 schools.
As for the new quarters for the school administration, Rash said the current administrative office building at the intersection of Warren Ave. and Trinity St. was built in 1918 and “doesn’t reflect well upon the district.” (The brick structure over the years alternately housed the high school, junior high, and intermediate school before becoming the administrative offices about 30 years ago. Originally a 3-story building, its top story was razed many years ago).
Rash said the aging building, which also once housed the county Appraisal District, could be sold for business purposes.
Discussing Proposition 2, the board president said the proposed junior high classrooms would replace an “old and run-down” outlying building which lacks space. He also said the school’s science laboratories are outdated, and that visitor parking is lacking.
As for Proposition 3, Rash said it would have nets in the ceiling, allowing such sports as golf to practice there. In addition, the band, junior ROTC, track and football teams could practice there during bad weather, and the building could be used for health fairs, he said.
After discussing the propositions, Rash said that “while many schools struggle financially, we remain strong,” and that the school’s tax rate has dropped from $1.46 in 2003 (the last year a bond issue was approved) to $1.185. He also said the state has given GISD its superior financial rating for 12 consecutive years, and that the district has refinanced bonds, saving millions of dollars.
“Our financial position has never been stronger,” Rash asserted.
When the video ended, winning praise by board members, Albritton said the bond package is “about looking to the future” and that the district would almost have to build a new high school in 12-15 years if it doesn’t now.
He also said some people outside Gilmer wrongly contend the current high school “is not a good school.” Rash meantime said the bond package is not about just “bricks and mortar.”
Early voting is scheduled Oct. 21-25 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1 at various locations, including from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily at the Upshur County Courthouse on the downtown square, and at the Gilmer school administration building at 500 S. Trinity.
Dates and times for other early voting locations include:
Oct. 22--Gilmer Elementary School foyer from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Oct. 23--Bruce Junior High School foyer from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Oct. 24--Gilmer High School foyer from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Oct. 25--Gilmer Intermediate School foyer from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 28--Elementary school foyer (during Parents’ Night) from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 29--Intermediate school (during Parents’ Night) from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 31--Gilmer High School cafeteria (during junior high football game at Buckeye Stadium) from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Nov. 1--First National Bank and Gilmer National Bank, both at times to be announced, and high school cafeteria from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. before football game
Watch the Bond Info Video