This Nov. 7, the Amarillo Independent School District is asking voters to approve $100 million in bonds for a series of upgrades at 49 campuses.
The project list consists of mostly maintenance priorities that were whittled down from about $330 million in needs that were identified by a bond committee that began studying district campuses in late 2015, AISD trustee board President Jim Austin said.
The bond request involves adding space to accommodate for rising enrollment projections in growing areas of Amarillo; standardizing and updating about 900 restrooms and related water and sewer pipe replacements; installing energy-efficient windows to lower costs; adding bullet-resistant windows and doors at several campuses and reconfiguring student drop-off and pick-up areas at certain campuses to improve safety.
If approved, construction is expected to last three to four years, Austin said.
AISD commits money from year to year for maintenance and other projects. While the district has covered some improvements through the years with general fund revenue, the bundle of proposed bond projects satisfies a lot of growth and security needs at once, Austin added.
AISD voters generally have been supportive of district funding requests in recent decades. Since 1980, AISD voters have passed bond issues in 1980, 1987, 2003 and 2013. A $91 million bond election that failed in 1995 was repackaged as a $42.2 million request, which voters approved in 1996, district records show.
The League of Women Voters of Amarillo this week will host a question-and-answer election forum to discuss items on area ballots this November, including the AISD bond.
The $100 million bond issue is projected to raise the portion of AISD's tax rate that pays down debt by 5 cents to 15.9 cents per $100 valuation.
That would make the district's total tax rate $1.239 per $100 valuation.
For a home valued at $120,000 with AISD's general homestead exemption of $25,000, the owner can expect taxes owed to the district to increase by $47.50 per year, or roughly $4 more per month.
In his 17 years on the school board, Austin said the district has carried surpluses from year-to-year. The district spends roughly $10 million per year to service its existing debt, and Austin said the district's annual budgets will support paying down the additional bonds, should voters approve them.
UPGRADES AND MAINTENANCE
The bond request has four categories:
Facility upgrades ($35.3 million): AISD states this amount will go to refreshing and updating bathrooms and locker room bathrooms, and renovating high school auditoriums. In all, this portion of the bond will cover work at 12 campuses including all four high schools.
Restoration and replacement ($27.9 million): This category includes new and upgraded sewer and plumbing lines, drainage and more energy-efficient windows at 25 campuses.
Classroom additions ($25.3 million): This is the only portion of the bond that involves new construction. New classrooms are planned at Caprock High School, Fannin Middle School, Palo Duro High School and Sleepy Hollow Elementary to accommodate growing enrollments.
Safety and security ($11.5 million): Though the smallest portion of the total bond request, work will be done at the most campuses – 34 in all. Planned enhancements include bullet-resistant glass doors and changes to areas where parents pick up and drop off students.
The board has heard proposals for some of these projects. For example, architects presented proposed changes for 60-year-old Fannin Middle School during the Sept. 18 regular meeting.
|Palo Duro High School||$1,650,000|
|Caprock High School||$5,500,000|
|Fannin Middle School||$11,000,000|
|Sleepy Hollow Elementary||$3,300,000|
|Professional fees and inflation||$3,900,000|
|High school auditoriums||$6,853,000|
|Secondary locker room bathrooms||$6,344,885|
|Professional fees and inflation||$5,424,615|
|RESTORATION AND REPLACEMENT|
|Professional fees and inflation||$4,307,700|
|SAFETY AND SECURITY|
|Student delivery & pick-up||$4,565,000|
|Professional fees and inflation||$1,752,300|
Early voting begins Oct. 23 and runs through Nov. 3. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Also on the ballot are seven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution and, for Potter County residents, a two-cent sales tax increase for rural areas to fund the county fire department.
AISD school board members have approved election services agreements with Potter and Randall counties.
Sample ballots and Election Day information are available here:
Voters can double-check their registration status on the Texas Secretary of State's website.