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April 15, 2014

Bond issue questions asked, answered

GREENVILLE — If the proposed $72.275 million Greenville Independent School District bond passes, the district will move from the third-lowest school district tax rate in Hunt County to sixth out of 11 school districts in tax rates.

GISD currently has a tax rate of $1.18 per $100 valuation. If passed, the sale of the bonds would increase the rate to $1.395, placing it behind Bland, Boles, Caddo Mills, Celeste, Commerce and Royse City ISDs, which all have tax rates of $1.51 or higher.

According to GISD Superintendent Don Jefferies, the average monthly increase for residents in the district would be $14.48 for houses valued at $80,983.

For houses valued at $100,000, the increase would be $17.88, and for a house valued at $50,00, the increase would be $8.94 per month.

There are five priorities in the $72.275 million bond, including a new Bowie Elementary School ($17,600,000), a Career and Technology Academy addition at Greenville High School ($18,000,000), safety and security improvements, including additional security cameras and controlled entrances, priced at $8,820,000, technology upgrades, which include district-wide wireless internet capability and network improvements totalling $7,000,000, and other district-wide improvements to the tune of $20,855,000.

Included in the district-wide improvements is renovations to the facilities to bring them in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jefferies said the Bond Steering Committee decided a new Bowie Elementary School was advantageous.

“They decided that Bowie needed to be replaced,” he said.

The new school would be built on the existing site on Stonewall Street and the children would attend classes at Lamar Elementary School during the estimated year construction time for the new campus.

The new building would be built to be energy-efficient and classrooms would be built to state size requirements; a new gymnasium, playground and music room among others would be added, and new on-site parking would be added along with pick-up and drop-off drives to help ease the flow of traffic. 

Sonya Cathey, who has children who attend GISD and helped begin a Political Action Committee to get residents to vote for the bond, said she thinks a new Bowie at the current location is a good idea.

“It’s good that they’re going to build it there,” she said, adding there is room in the back of the lot for additional parking. “We love it.”

Amy Tarpley Wade, who served on the Bond Steering Committee, said the proposed career and technology center is a big thing for her.

“That career and technology center is huge, huge,” she said.

Cathey agreed, and added that the district can put technology in the hands of students who otherwise would not have it.

“There are a large percentage of kids in the community who do not have access to technology at home,” she said. “They would have those resources.”

Cathey said the PAC will also have a presence at the upcoming Hunt County Fair later this month, and can be reached at AmyWade@Tarpleyrealtors.com or on their website at www.voteforgreenvilleisdbond.com.

According to Greenville City Councilman and Sixth Grade Center Principal James Evans, he still has some questions about the bond.

Evans said he wondered why there was not someone set up in place to serve as a liaison between GISD and Huckabee architecture. 

“In the past when we did bonds for Carver, Lamar and the stadium, we had someone who served as a buffer between the school district and architects,” he said. “I’m concerned we don’t have one. I have nothing against Huckabee, I would have liked to have an impartial person.”

Evans said he also wished that members of the Bond Steering Committee would have toured the schools sooner and more in depth.

“Visits with our faculty did not take place until shortly before the bond was voted on in the school board,” he said. 

Evans also questions that this will be another bond so close to the Hunt Memorial Hospital District, the Greenville Street and the Greenville YMCA bonds passing.

Evans said this could potentially put a burden on taxpayers and businesses.

“Careful thought and planning needs to be spent in a wise manner,” he said. “I want the funds to be spent properly. I’m interested in these childrens children’s future.”

Evans said he is not attempting to stir trouble, just to get answers to his questions.

“I ask because I love this district,” he said.

Jefferies said the additions to the existing sites will be able to handle growth.

“I can’t give a definite number, but with added classrooms and space, I don’t see a problem adding several hundred more kids,” he said.

Jefferies also answered questions about the career and technology addition that were raised by members of the crowd.

Jefferies said the district’s FFA and robotics programs already draw students from around the county to take those courses, and by adding the new programs the district would draw even more of the students who are not interested in attending college, but who want to graduate high school with employable skills.

The career and technology addition would house Ag Science, automotive body and repair, automotive technology, building trades, culinary arts, electromechanical, engineering, health services, information technology, robotics and welding.

Jefferies said GISD has been meeting with Greenville and Hunt County businesses to tailor classes and certificates to fill the local workplace.

Jefferies said the recent Spread the Red campaign, set up by Kelli Tharp, director of community services for GISD, has raised more than $100,000.

“It’s been more than enough money than any brochure that we’ve put out,” adding the district also sent out a brochure in 2013 as well. “It showcases the accomplishments of our kids. I won’t apologize about that.”

Early voting is taking place at the Hunty County Elections Administrations Office from April 28 through May 6.

Early voting will also take place from April 29 through May 1 at Bowie, Carver and Lamar Elementary Schools, and at Greenville Middle and Greenville High Schools.

Some people wondered as to why some schools were not included in the early voting process.

“People were curious as to why the Sixth Grade Center was not a part of early voting,” a member of the crowd said.

“There are several schools that were not part of the early voting, so we didn’t single anyone out,” Jefferies said. “It wasn’t a matter of excluding anyone, it was a matter of picking the ones that we thought would spread the vote out the most on both sides of the tracks.”

Jefferies added they also did it to cut down on the cost of hiring people to man booths at the different locations.

With the vote taking place on May 10, Jefferies said that if voted for or against, he still serves the approximately 4,900 students enrolled at GISD.

“It’s about helping our children prepare for the future,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can with whatever this community says we have to live with.”

For more information on what is included in the proposed bond, visit www.greenvilleisd.com/bond.

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