GISD bond issue rejected
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Nov 10, 2013 | 1263 views | 2 2 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Voters in the Gilmer Independent School District soundly rejected all three propositions of a proposed $36.2 million school bond issue package Tuesday.

In complete, but unofficial returns, Proposition 1, mainly for a new $30 million high school, lost 1,468-978, while Proposition 2 for new classrooms at Bruce Junior High School was defeated 1,392-1,051 and Proposition 3 for a new multi-purpose facility at the high school campus was defeated 1,696-741, said Gilmer ISD Supt. Rick Albritton.

Proposition 3 would have been approved only if both it and Proposition 1 passed.

Total turnout was 2,449 of the school district’s 10,507 voters, said school board Vice President Mike Tackett.

School officials had said the current high school, which was originally constructed in 1950 before undergoing major renovations and additions since, had inadequate science laboratory facilities, inadequate bathrooms, and that millions would have to be spent to repair the roof and air conditioning system on an aging building that was coming to the end of its life.

The school cited current low interest rates, and the prospect of a new high school attracting taxpayers to the community for economic growth, as other reasons for building one now.

But bond issue opponents objected to the 21.2 percent tax hike that would have occurred had all three propositions passed, favored renovation instead, criticized the overall size of the bond issue in the current economy, and said the multipurpose facility wasn’t needed.

Passage of all three proposals would have raised the school’s tax rate by 25.35 cents per $100 valuation to a new level of about $1.44 per $100 valuation.

Tiffany de Gala, a member of a political action committee which opposed the bond proposals, said upon learning the returns from The Mirror, “I would just say that we are very happy with the outcome. We’re extremely happy with the voter turnout and we feel that this really shows how the community feels about the proposals.

“We hope that, you know, perhaps the school board might go back to the drawing board and come up with a more cost-effective solution to the issues that we face as a school district.”

Another opponent of the entire bond issue, former School Board member Sandy Johns, complained Thursday that “I don’t think it was that well-planned” because school officials “didn’t tell people enough about” where the new high school would be located on the current campus—most of which is “in a flood zone,” she said.

“They should have known exactly where they were going to put it,” Mrs. Johns said.

In addition, she said, she would have favored a new high school, which she said is needed, but “I think when they threw that (proposed multipurpose) building in, that’s what caused it (the entire bond issue) not to pass.”

She said athletics had been “stuffed down the community’s throat.”

Albritton on Tuesday night called the outcome “a very difficult loss,” saying “apparently the community’s not ready for this at this time, so we’ll continue to go forward. . . and we will figure it out.”

He said most bond opponents he had heard had complained “it’s very difficult times and the tax increase was something they thought they just couldn’t afford.” He also said the issue apparently won approval among voters in the city limits, but failed in rural areas.

“The one thing the opposition did say that is true is that Gilmer ISD is not just a facility,” Albritton added. “Gilmer ISD is made of great students, great staff and great parents, and we will continue to be a great school in academics and all activities, as we always have.”

He also thanked School Board members “for their vision.”

Tackett said Tuesday night, “The community has given direction of their concerns and their feeling for the propositions. We appreciate all those who came out to vote, and we’ll serve the community as best we can in the future.” Albritton also thanked all those who voted, and Linda Koudelka, who chaired the political action committee that supported passage.

On Thursday, School Board President Jeff Rash, who had recorded a video explaining the bond issue proposal, told The Mirror “Certainly, I was disappointed by the outcome.” But he said that it was “impressive” to “only lose by that margin” when “you’re talking about a big bond issue.”

Rash said school officials “didn’t do a good enough job” of going to voters in Glenwood Acres and East Mountain to educate them, and that opponents’ job was “a lot easier than ours.

“The other team—all they have to do is run up and down the road and say your taxes are going up and they’re (school officials) trying to waste money,” Rash said. “We have to try to educate voters where they get to sensationalize, you know, things.”

He accused opponents of being “dishonest” in saying the board was trying to build a “Taj Mahal” of a high school, and said it would “be ridiculous to put millions of dollars in Band-Aids. . . on a 60-year-old building.” But he said constructing the multipurpose building is now out because it “got voted down soundly.”

Rash also said that since about 1,000 people voted for some of the bond proposals, “I think we (the board) should go, reevaluate it, meet with our (advisory) committee again and consider. . . bringing this thing back up” in another bond issue election after seeing what can be cut.

He said the school probably has three or four years before the high school roof would have to be replaced, which gives time for another such process leading to an election.

Next time, he said, “we’ll do a better job. . . outlining what the money’s for, that it’s not just building costs.”

Rash also said that what “bothered me the most” was “I wish our community was a little more progressive. I wish they understood the benefits to the community as well as to the student.

“The opposition said, ‘We’re not Spring Hill. We’re not Hallsville. We’re not Gladewater. We’re Gilmer’. . . They basically alluded to the fact we don’t deserve those things” that those other schools have, and acted like “it’s a bad thing to be progressive,” he added.

“They made comments like, ‘Let’s just build a metal building. . . (and) paint stripes on the grass (for parking),’” he complained.

Rash said it bothered him that people would build a $300,000 home, home school their children, and “make a statement like that about how we don’t deserve nice things for our kids.”
Comments
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JayBeetwo
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November 30, 2013
I think Rick is trying to articulate his unwillingness to spend anything on anyone else's children, so as to make himself sound more like a philosopher instead of the tight-wad he really is.

One thing that is simple though, the HS and classroom bonds were killed by the immature, unrealistic grab for the indoor football field, definitely hurt the district for years to come!
Rick Caldwell
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November 11, 2013
School Boards as a group have good intentions, problem is, usually the group is led by those who are good at spending other peoples money, don't have a real good plan or presentation to sell a bond funded improvement and the older folks who pay taxes, have no kids in school and no direct benefit they can see, vote against the bonds, older folks are tired of taxes and will unite, younger folks who have kids don't get organized to respond and needed improvements get pushed back til it's too late and the costs are too high,

city councils, school boards and committees all need to face reality about taxes and taxpayers ability to pay or vote for expensive projects.