Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Granbury ISD school board votes to hold special election for $161M bond

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During a regularly scheduled Granbury ISD board of trustees meeting, the board voted 5-2 to call a special election May 4 to allow voters to consider a bond proposal totaling $161,500,000. Trustees Melanie Graft and Karen Lowery voted in opposition.

If it is approved by voters, the bond will fund construction of a new elementary school off Granbury and Peck Roads, many needed renovations across nine of GISD’s 10 campuses, a new transportation center, the purchase of 30 new school buses, and implementation of additional instruction, technology, and safety and security measures.

Some specifically needed renovations, according to GISD Superintendent Jeremy Glenn, include replacing air conditioning units at Granbury High School as well as adding a sidewalk and crosswalk in front of the school. The roof may need repairs, as well, since major roof leaks have occurred at times in the fine arts facility.

Some community members voiced their opinions about the bond proposal before the board made its final decision, including former board president Barbara Herrington and community members Jim Brown, Sharee Westlund and Beverly Cheney.

Herrington praised the staff and faculty around the district for their work and praised the board members who attended a bond planning meeting that was open to the public. Herrington noted that two members were not there (Graft and Lowery) and said if they voted against the bond, “shame on you,” Herrington said.

Brown voiced his concerns with the bond and alluded to the possibility of a new jail, a potential hospital district tax, and the costs of the growth and infrastructure coming to the county, all pointing to potential tax increases for residents.

“In time, we will be the ones paying for this at some point in time,” Brown said. “I just want to make sure that I feel comfortable that you, the board, represents these students, and your community are fiscally responsible and not grabbing for too much money.”

Westlund shared her support for the bond calling it an “investment in our community,” and noted it will shape the future of the children within the community as well as generations to come.

Cheney thanked the board members who attended the bond planning meeting as well as the strategic planning meetings. She also wanted those in attendance to remember to not believe everything they read online, as she claimed misinformation has been spread on social media by members of the community.

Glenn presented details of the bond proposal to the public and shared that the board wants the entire community to get behind this bond — rather than be split down the middle like the previous bond proposal.

He said the biggest concern heard from the community during the reevaluation of a new bond proposal is the possibility of a tax increase. Glenn said the bond will not increase the property tax rate of 0.9996 per $100 in valuation and will only cost more if the bond keeps being pushed into the future. Trustee Lowery pointed out that, on the ballot, the bond will be listed as a property tax increase.

Glenn agreed but pointed out the rate will remain the same, but the district would take on more debt that is scheduled to be paid off in 2039, but this bond will extend that by 15 years.

Trustee Courtney Gore asked those who weren’t in attendance at the strategic planning meetings to voice their opinions and thoughts on the bond proposal. Trustee Billy Wimberly said he was not in attendance at the meeting because he was out of the country but is in favor of the bond.

Graft shared that her family was sick and she was unable to attend; she said she would let Gore know her thoughts on the bond when they voted.

Lowery pointed out that a large portion of the population in Granbury is economically disadvantaged and shared that raising taxes throughout the county would hurt those residents and families.

Glenn said the special election will allow the community to make a decision about whether or not they are in favor of the bond.

Board President Barbara Townsend sais it is the board’s responsibility to give the children in the district and those who move in the best education possible.

“That can’t be done in buildings that are falling apart and in crowded classrooms,” Townsend said. “Crowded classrooms mean you don’t have as much teacher interaction; more discipline problems and people can fall through the cracks. That’s why I believe we need to put this bond on the map.”

Trustee Nancy Alana agreed, referencing her time working in the school district, and shared the need for this bond. Alana said that at Brawner and Acton Elementary schools, some small group instruction has been moved to janitorial closets due to tight space.

“This is a not a want list or wish list. This a need list,” trustee Mike Moore said during the meeting. “This is a necessity and I’m 100% behind it.”

Alana entered a motion to call the special election; Moore seconded the motion. The measure was approved by a vote of 5-2 with Graft and Lowery voting their opposition. Gore made a motion to reconsider, which passed 5-2 with Graft and Lowery opposing.

Gore asked Graft and Lowery their reasons for voting against calling the election.

“I’ve talked to constituents and what I’m hearing is they don’t want to be taxed out of their homes,” Graft said. “I hear this again and again.”

Gore told Graft the bond proposal would not increase the tax rate before Graft asked why the words “tax increase” will be on the ballot. Gore explained the wording is required per state law.

“We’re adding more debt and extending our debt. It’s not a tax rate increase, but people will pay more in property taxes,” Gore explained.

Glenn then shared that in the general area, residents will not find many places with a lower tax rate than Granbury.

Lowery then shared that from her constituents, she has heard concerns of parents not wanting to have school debt put on their kids. She noted that she and Graft are allowed to have their own opinions and are not obligated to share the reason why they are in opposition of the bond.

“We have been communicating with the community, and they have said ‘we don’t want this,’ and that is the way we are voting,” Lowery said.

“The only way we can fund big projects like this is through a bond election,” Gore said. “It’s either we continue to put these kids in closets and hallways or hold the election.”

Gore talked about things she’s seen firsthand at her son’s school. firsthand these issues.

“He has had to ask to go use the restroom so that he could grab his lunch from his backpack to go finish eating in the bathroom because that lunchroom was never designed to hold and feed that many kids,” Gore said. “This is what our kids in our district are facing every day. What do you say to those kids? What do you say to my son who has to do that just to be able to eat a meal?” She asked Graft what her solution was to this issue and sought input, but Graft did not respond.

Glenn reiterated the overcrowding seen across the district and mentioned the portable buildings being used are not the safest environment.

Townsend thanked Graft and Lowery for the feedback from their constituents before calling for a vote. The measure was again approved by a vote of 5-2 with Graft and Lowery opposed.

A $151.7 million bond proposal failed by two votes in the November election with a historic voter turnout; more than 12,000 votes were cast.

Early voting in the special election takes place April 22-30. Election Day is May 4.