By Anton Riecher
By a 6-0 vote the Devine ISD board of trustees voted Thursday (Feb. 16) to place a $31 million bond issue designated for improvements on the May election ballot.
On a motion by Chris Davis, seconded by board vice president Henry Moreno, the board approved two propositions for the May ballot. Both propositions would be supported by a tax increase if passed.
Complete video coverage of the school board special meeting is posted on the Devine News’ YouTube channel at youtu.be/iaZF6xhsJVo.
Proposition A calls for $31 million on bond money for various projects such as a new district band hall, relocating high school administrative offices, improved site security through fencing and enclosed sidewalk corridors and a new early childhood center at Ciavarra Elementary.
Proposition B- on the ballot will call for for $1.2 million to cover new tennis courts and improvements to the stadium required under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Any recreational things such as the stadium has to be put on a separate proposition,” board president Nancy Pepper said.
Yet to be determined is if funds for improvements to the district’s special education building will be used for renovations or to replace the aging structure altogether.
“We’re possibly going to build a new one rather than rescue the present building,” Pepper said.
The pressure of record inflation weighed against equally dramatic increases in property appraisals colored much of the closing debate. Pepper said the board’s long term policy on handling the district’s debt rate put it in an improved position to pursue the bond issue.
“Instead of lowering our debt rate every year as we paid off our bonds we kept it the same,” Pepper said.
Now, by means of a defeasance, the district has set aside sufficient funds to cover a large portion of the debt associated with the new bond issue. In effect, the district has nearly $11 million to apply toward the new bond issue, Pepper said.
“Because we’ve done that we could have called for as much as an $11 million bond issue and it would not have raised our taxes,” Pepper said.
Still, board members questioned whether it might be better to wait until the next available election date in November. Others suggested using the May election as a test for what voters might view more favorably if it were put forward again in November.
Board member Renee Frieda said that course of action would not show the board in the best light.
“We could always go out (in May) and then go out again in November,” Frieda said. “But does that make us look organized and thoughtful.”
On hand for the final debate were financial consultant Robert Tijerina of Tijerina Galvan and Lawrence and bond consultant Rose Kanusky of McCall Parkhurst and Horton. Casey Sledge of Sledge Engineering, construction consultants to the district, also addressed the council.
Board member Carl Brown was absent from the special meeting.
A message from Devine ISD on upcoming bond election….
DISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted to call for a $33.2 million bond election for Saturday, May 6, 2023.
The decision was made at a called meeting, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.
Two propositions will be on the ballot. All projects are recommended with the priority given to improving the safety and security of DISD campuses and students.
Proposition A recommends projects at all four campuses and the special education building.
High school projects encompass measures to increase security, which include moving the DHS office downstairs and remodeling the current space into classrooms. Also on the list are a new band hall, and converting the existing band hall into a black-box theater. (A black-box theater is a simple space, typically a square room with black walls and a flat floor that will be used as a classroom for theater classes.)
Recommended projects at the middle school are an expansion of the boys and girls locker rooms, expanding the library, and a repurposing/remodeling of the cafeteria.
At the intermediate school, a secure vestibule (entrance) is recommended to increase safety and security.
Ciavarra Elementary recommended improvements include closing in all outdoor corridors, a new building that will include office space with a secure vestibule, early childhood center, including PreK and special education classrooms, a gym and dining area, and improvements to the drop-off and pick-up areas. The new facility will bring the youngest children much closer to the central campus.
A total of $2.5 million of the bond is allocated to renovating/expanding or building a new special education building. The current space at the facility is too small to accommodate the current number of staff members, meeting rooms, etc.
“After results of the bond election, we will determine the most cost-effective way to proceed with the special ed building,” Dr. Grandjean said.
Bond election regulations require recreation facilities to be separate propositions; therefore, Proposition B recommends the addition of four new tennis courts, doubling what is in existence currently.
“We are planning to have discussions with all aspects of the community, citizens, clubs–everyone. We will do these in-person and also on a virtual platform,” Dr. Grandjean said.
The current interest and sinking tax rate will not increase on the first $11.665 million of the bond.
After that there will be a $0.1807 per $100 valuation tax rate increase to the interest and sinking rate. (Interest and sinking is the budget that pays for debt that has been incurred by prior bond sales. The maintenance and operating side includes all the day-to-day running of the district. Bonds can be sold for facilities, purchase of buses, technology.)
That increase will bring the total DISD tax rate to $1.2753 per $100 valuation pending maintenance and operation tax rate compression at the end of the current legislative session.
The following table assumes the Local Homestead Exemption of $40,000.