Natalia ISD leadership stresses need for $10.7M bond

During the Natalia ISD School Board meeting held last Monday, August 13, both Superintendent Hensley Cone and Board members stressed the importance of the $10.7M bond election called by the Board in that meeting.
Cone said that the district’s needs are largely the same as they were in 2015, when a proposed $9.1M bond was rejected by voters.
Board President Eric Smith acknowledged the awkward timing of calling for a bond election while the district is under the guidance of Texas Education Agency conservator Sharon Doughty.
“This isn’t about adult issues, this is about the kids,” Smith said. “I hope that as a community we’re going to push behind it and actually get this thing done.”
The current bond is for 25 years and an assumed 4.50 percent interest rate, based on a 96 percent tax collection rate on assumed property values of $200,892,602.
Plans include the construction of five new Natalia Junior High School classrooms, a new science and art area, as well as a new library, kitchen, combined Natalia Elementary School/NJHS cafeteria, NES playground, and covered play area. In addition, the current NJHS cafeteria will be converted into a Band Hall. New NJHS administration offices will also be built.
Corridors will be built to connect Natalia Elementary School to Natalia Junior High School, enclosing the campuses and allowing for indoor foot traffic to pass from one campus to another in the name of increased safety.
In addition, bus and parent drop-off points will be re-routed along 8th St.
Board member Jack Bradley, Jr., stressed the importance of passing the bond.
“It wasn’t very long ago that Natalia had the highest tax rate of any area school district in Medina County and the surrounding counties,” Bradley said. “Now we’re lower than anybody else and you can tell that we have gone a long time without doing any upgrades to our facilities.”
Natalia ISD’s current tax rate of $1.2991 is lower than Dilley, Poteet, Somerset, Medina Valley, Lytle, Hondo, and Devine. The district has outstanding debt of only $1,145,000, which will be paid off over the course of the coming year.
“I hope people realize that things aren’t getting cheaper, they’re getting more expensive,” Bradley said. “If it weren’t to pass, who knows what the cost is going to be next time? It’s going to get to the point where we absolutely have to have these facilities upgraded and it could be twice as much. It just depends on the market.
“I just can’t stress enough how much we’ve got to reach out to the community and let them know that we’ve got to get this done now.”
Vice-President Paul Almendarez noted that this bond issue tackles the district’s most pressing needs.
“Safety is one of the biggest issues that we have to look at,” Board member Gordon Gentry said. “The old saying is ‘it won’t happen here.’ It’s not if, but when. So we have to be prepared as much as we can safety-wise.”
Board member Andrew Besa emphasized the need to win over the community.
“We’ve got to get out there and work,” he said. “I’m ready to work.”
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer