Whether to build a $20 million elementary school -- which would be the ninth for College Station -- now is in the hands of voters, along with $63 million in other proposed projects.
The College Station school board Tuesday called for a Nov. 5 bond election that also would pay for what officials described as much-needed projects ranging from an alternative center to renovations at a high school to buses.
Finances dominated the conversation during a board workshop and its regular meeting in which it approved an $85 million budget and voted to decrease the tax rate of $1.335 per $100 property valuation by .015 cents.
But it was the bond proposal that took center stage: Twenty-four community members, two school board officials, one student and several district administrators made up the Long Range Planning Committee, which met throughout the spring to identify needs in the district for a potential bond election.
The group created a list of projects that was narrowed down to the elementary school, as well as the following: $15.5 million for a center for alternative learning; $12 million for deferred maintenance; $7.5 million to pay for a purchasing and warehouse center; $6.5 million to renovate the current center; $6.1 million to pay for technology needs; $5.5 million for land; $3.5 million for renovations to A&M Consolidated High School; $3.9 million for safety upgrades at the schools; and $3 million for buses and vehicles.
"The community has had an opportunity to provide feedback on things that we feel like are needed for the schools, and I'm really happy that the board was able to approve the proposal to have a bond election in November so that the community gets the opportunity to vote on what they want to see here," said Valerie Jochen, president of the board.
The items that were discussed but not included in the bond package include a maintenance and operation center, natatorium, gym expansion at Oakwood, performing arts center and ag science center.
Trustee Carol Barrett said it's one of the times when she's "very proud to be a part of this school district because I think we all are working together for the kids and for the district."
"I think that this list represents some places where we really need to focus on over the next few years and address needs, real needs," she said.
The most expensive project on the list is the elementary school, a facility that officials say will be needed soon. The district is projecting that it will have 5,371 elementary students enrolled by the 2015-2016 school year and capacity for only 5,140 of them. A ninth elementary school would bring that capacity to 5,800 students, officials said.
Similar bonds in 2007, for more than $67 million, and 2009, for $144.2 million toward the construction of Greens Prairie Elementary School and College Station High School, passed with more than 70 percent support.
"If I look historically, our community has supported College Station ISD and one of the reasons I think they support us is we do a good job of putting together a recommendation that makes sense for us as a school district and the community and hopefully we've done that this time as well, so I look forward to the results coming in," said Superintendent Eddie Coulson.
While the tax rate is expected to go up between 5 and 8 cents for the 2014-2015 year if voters approve the bond election, tax rates for the coming year will go down .015 cents per $100 taxable property, meaning that the owner of a $200,000 home would save $30 this year but see at least $100 increase the following year.
"The budget is exciting. The fact that we're going to be able to, in the coming school year, have a one-and-half cent rate lower tax rate, realizing that we are asking the community for more money [if the new bond is approved]...but that we are being good stewards of their money so that when we can lower their taxes that we do," Jochen said.
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