By LIBBY CLUETT
Mineral Wells ISD trustees unanimously approved an order calling for a bond election Tuesday, which will ask voters for $25 million to replace Lamar Elementary, the high school track and improve security at all campuses.
Superintendent Gail Haterius explained the bond election comes as a result of a facilities study, conducted by a 28-member group, which met seven times.
The committee was made up of a wide cross-section of the community. Haterius told trustees, “They were very interested and very dedicated” to their roles. The community group included current and retired school employees, as well as representatives from businesses – the hospital and banking, legal, and insurance sectors. They toured each MWISD building – school campuses, the District Services Center, technology building, bus barn and the alternative education center.
“I feel like we got a lot of eyes on the project,” Haterius said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We also had our architects do a facility study, too,” she added of Fort Worth based VLK Architects Inc. “We put both those together and came up with the bond proposal – what we think it will cost – and the first step to get that going is an order calling for a bond election.”
The committee’s and architects’ primary recommendation was to entirely replace the aging Lamar Elementary building, but also advised the district:
• Improve security, giving each campus a singular, main entrance and update and expand cameras.
• Replace the Mineral Wells High School track, noting that patching would not solve the track’s foundation problems. Haterius said this could cost $850,000, but noted the district has already spent district funds on geotechnical engineering.
• Renovate the 50-year-old Mineral Wells Junior High School building, but keep the costs as low as possible. The committee concluded a new building would be required in the future.
“We’ve already started some of the projects out of our local budget [the district’s general fund] at the junior high,” Haterius said of painting, replacing metal caps on door frames and other cosmetic improvements.
The committee concluded that the four goals could be achieved with a bond issue.
The big-ticket item for the bond is replacing Lamar Elementary, which architects estimate at $23 million.
In a letter to the school board, Ken Williamson, selected to be the committee’s spokesperson, cited the structure, built in 1955, faces “multiple issues ... that cannot be reasonably solved with any additional renovations.”
“We’d like to see a new school started in a few years,” Williamson previously told the Index. “It’s just out-of-date and doesn’t have a kitchen large enough. We thought that was the most glaring of the campuses.”
Haterius said a new elementary school would be built on the same lot as the current school and would likely be constructed in phases.
“We’ve got to keep our schools as safe, secure and inspiring places for our children to learn and grow,” said Haterius. “The condition of the schools shows the support of the community for our youth. It’s our job to make sure we have safe, secure, up-to-date schools.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Scott Aaron made the motion, seconded by Scott Elder, to order a Nov. 5 election. The motion carried 7-0.
Haterius said the proposed interest-and-sinking tax increase to support a $25 million bond is 12 cents. The bond proposal would raise the current MWISD ad-valorem rate from $1.29 per $100 taxable valuation to $1.42. The current maintenance-and-operations rate is $1.04 and the I&S rate is 25 cents per $100 valuation. For the average Mineral Wells home, valued at $62,017, this could result in a yearly increase of $79.13, explained Haterius, which does not include the $15,000 homestead exemption.
“For people age 65 and older, whose taxes are frozen, there will be no tax increase,” she added.
The proposition text on the ballot will ask voters two things:
• To authorize the MWISD board of trustees to issue the bonds of the district, in one or more series, in the aggregate principal amount of $25 million, for the purpose of the construction, renovation, acquisition and equipment of school buildings in the district, with said bonds to mature, bear interest and be issued and sold in accordance with law at the time of issuance.
•To authorize the MWISD board to levy and pledge, and cause to be assessed and collected, without limit to rate or amount, to pay the principal of and interest on said bonds and the costs of any credit agreements executed in connection with the bonds.