Voters say 'OK' to more than $120 million in Texas Panhandle school improvements

Posted by Mike Smith on
Palo Duro High School auditorium, to be renovated through AISD's bond.

Texas Panhandle voters on Tuesday approved most of their school district's requests for additional funding to improve and expand student facilities.

Voters also returned incumbents to one local board, approved another board's higher tax rate, and determined what a district will do with its new-found property wealth.

RELATED: Voters give mixed scores for school bonds in May municipal elections

Amarillo ISD: In the largest request put before Panhandle voters Tuesday night, voters greenlighted the issue of $100 million in bonds for improvements at 49 campuses across the district with 55 percent of voters in support. Divided into sections, the bond includes adding classrooms, safer entrances, upgraded bathrooms and related sewer lines and a host of other improvements.

District officials had said updating aging facilities was necessary to accommodate growth projections. “This victory will give the district a much-needed boost to address some of the maintenance issues that come with older facilities, as well as add an additional layer of safety and security measures at some of our schools,” Scott Flow, board vice president, said in a statement.

RELATED: These AISD campuses would share $100 million in bond upgrades

Higgins ISD: Voters overwhelmingly approved a higher tax rate set earlier this year by the school board. Higgins ISD's election was a mandatory "rollback" vote since the district's tax rate of $1.45047 per $100 valuation was 13 cents higher than the maximum rate allowed before voter approval is required. The higher rate allows the district to raise maintenance and operations revenue.

Miami ISD: Board incumbents Brian Benge and Cindy Wheeler received the highest number of votes and were reelected to new terms.

Silverton ISD: A new wind farm in the district's territory has caused property values to soar, which has spiked the amount of revenue the district collects per student. In Texas, that triggers provisions of "Chapter 41," or the law that deems SISD as a "property rich" district that must figure out how to share its additional wealth.

The district put a set of options to voters Tuesday night: buying "attendance credits" to send additional money directly to the state, and taking in transfer students from neighboring districts. SISD voters approved of those options with a 247-to-10 vote, or a margin of 79 percent to 21 percent.

Stratford ISD: Voters had to decide on four propositions that totaled $12.3 million in spending, and approved three of them. The approved changes include:

• $2.9 million in conversions to and renovations of science labs and classrooms
• $3.2 million to renovate and expand the vocational-agricultural facility
• $1.3 million for security upgrades and a music room at Mary Allen Elementary

Stratford voters rejected a $4.8 million proposal for a 520-seat performance hall.

Tulia ISD: With the approval of 54.2 percent of voters, Tulia can begin $13 million in upgrades and adjustments to its school facilities. The changes include new and renovated classrooms at Tulia High School, a remodeled high school auditorium, and expanding Highland Elementary School.

When complete, third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students at Swinburn Elementary will be relocated to the expanded Highland, making Highland a Pre-K-through-5 campus. 

Tulia ISD Superintendent Steve Post said architects will work on designs and plans during the next several months, with construction anticipated to begin in mid-2018. The entire process is expected to take up to three years, he said.

 

 

Mike Smith is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. Contact him at mike.smith@actx.edu, on Twitter at @newsmithm and on Facebook.

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