By TONY EIERDAM
GRAFORD – At the last Graford ISD board of trustees meeting, trustees approved a bond election which will be held in November for a $7.5 million bond that will include costs of new buildings, the expansion/renovation of other buildings and the cost of building an athletic complex that will feature new baseball and softball fields, a track and new locker rooms.
“We are also looking at some new buildings at our high school which would be for a new science lab,” Graford ISD superintendent Dennis Holt said. “We would take the current science lab and make it for our elementary school kids.”
Another high school improvement the district would make, provided the bond passes, is to build a new kitchen onto the cafeteria and use the current kitchen for a culinary arts classroom.
The bond would also include a new entrance to the high school building, with a reception area, nurses station and principal’s office. A meeting room and teacher training area would also be built in the area of the new entrance.
Holt said the purpose of a new entrance is not just aesthetics.
“Part of the reason we want to build a new entrance is for safety and security,” he explained. “We can have a monitored, single access into our building. People use different entrances now and they are not well monitored because of the way the offices are set up.”
The bond would also help build a new bus barn.
“We need to have somewhere to put our buses out of the weather,” Holt said.
The district would also use bond funds to build two locker rooms – in back of the gym, where the old agriculture/science rooms are located – to expand the current weight room and add some extra storage.
“The bond money would also help us with issues we have with roofs and air conditioning,” Holt said. “These are some of the big-ticket items that we can take care of with a bond. Also, other issues, like alarms, security, cameras and upgrades to existing security items, can be taking care of.”
In addition, the district wants to build an athletic complex as part of the bond package. Graford does not have a track, and currently it leases fields for high school softball and baseball games from the local youth association.
“The dimensions of both fields are not good for high school programs,” Holt said. “And since we don’t have a track ... that would be something good for our kids.”
Holt said his job in the weeks leading up to the election is to present the facts to tax payers. By law, school officials are not allowed to “lobby” to pass a bond election.
If the bond is passed, property taxes would rise somewhere between 5.5 cents to 6.5 cents per $100 taxable property valuation. For instance, Holt explained that a homeowner whose taxable property value is $100,000 would pay roughly $4 to $4.50 extra a month in property taxes.
“I cannot go out and try to sway anyone one way or the other,” Holt said. “I am just trying to take care of my district and take care of my kids.
“Before I came on board the school board had already started looking into facility needs and were in the process of doing a facilities assessment. This has been in the works for awhile, and we finally got all of the pieces together and started looking at our needs and wants.”
Holt continued by saying the board of trustees looked at several options and did not rush into a decision to hold a bond election.
“We held off on doing this last May because we wanted to make sure and take our time and collect all of the facts,” he said. “We arrived at $7.5 million by looking at what we wanted to do and the quotes from the architects we received.
“At one point we thought it would be $9 million, but the board looked at it and looked closer at needs and they cut some items out to arrive at $7.5 million which would cover our needs.”
Holt would not comment if he feels the bond will pass, but did offer how he feels about the election.
“I hope it passes,” he said. “The response I have had so far has been positive. From what I have heard form board members and people in the community is that they understand there is a need, and that the board has been fiscally responsible and not trying to raise the M and O (maintenance and operation).
“These days folks are wary because they know so much of the money raised in taxes goes back to the state.
“But with a bond like this, the taxes raised to pay off the bond stays in the district. We are doing what is right for the kids and not trying to raise property taxes too much.
“I think everyone will get their money’s worth.”
The bond election will be Tuesday, Nov. 5.