Four days after voters struck down a $308 million bond for the Sherman Independent School District, Superintendent David Hicks and board of trustees President Tim Millerick held a press conference to announce the district hopes to try again.
“Our facility needs are great and they exist — I don’t think that’s in dispute,” Hicks said. “The community agrees we have needs definitely in our facilities. We’re committed to moving forward to specifically address our crowded facilities, our student growth, our aged facilities and our technology infrastructure.”
Hicks said the district is preparing a survey it will open to city residents on the Sherman ISD website in order to gather information about what they’d like to see included in a new bond package.
“I think it’s important that our community has said ‘Let’s reconvene the conversation,’” Hicks said. “I think there’s energy in the community to take action at the first available opportunity, which would be November. So our trustees would consider it in August to call the election, but that’s going to be (from) a recommendation from the citizens on the Building Bearcats committee. As we gather information first from the community, then we will reconvene the committee and that will start at the end of May and continue through the summer.”
The Building Bearcats 2030 citizens advisory committee recommended the $308 million bond package to the school board in January. That included plans for a new high school, an updated or new football stadium, two new elementary schools and a technology program to encompass all campuses. Under the proposed bond, taxes for the average Sherman homeowner, whose house and property are worth $88,000, would have been raised by roughly $17 per month or $202 each year. The district’s interest and sinking tax rate would have increased from its current 27 cents to 50 cents per $100 valuation — the maximum allowed by the state.
And when all the votes were counted, 2,195 people voted against the bond and just 2,050 voted in favor of it — a difference of 145 votes.
“I think the closeness of the bond has us standing here today,” Millerick said. “We need to figure out what item or items and at what tax level the community’s going to agree because the needs are clear. Our facilities are outdated and we have technology needs that we need to deliver today’s education. We thought we were on solid footing, but we’ve learned that maybe we need to step back from that a little bit and reconsider just exactly what the first piece will be for the first 10 or 12 years.”
Hicks said the citizens advisory committee will rededicate its efforts to include more people in the conversation about determining a new bond package, including some of the people who were vocally opposed to the $308 million bond.
“We’ve been reaching out individually and then collectively as well in smaller groups,” Hicks said of contacting bond opponents. “I want to know what people want. This is not a bond package I’m driving, or that a select group of people are driving. As evidenced by the 4,000 people that voted, this is important to our community. Our community has been a huge supporter of public education in this district. Whatever we put forward has to be acceptable or it won’t pass.”
Millerick said he believes the board feels strongly about calling a new bond election in August to get it on the November ballot.
“I think this first step provided us with such detailed information, that we don’t have to restart the process,” he said. “I think this next step would be more about trying to gauge where folks want to land and what piece we can help the community see as an immediate need.”
The Sherman ISD superintendent said he took the election results as the community asking for a step-by-step plan rather than a long range one. And the goal for a new bond election will still be to educate rather than to try to convert some of the citizens who voted against the bond on Saturday.
“For me, the efforts between now and the next time are not about converting, the efforts are about making sure people have accurate information and they have a true, deep understanding,” Hicks said. “That’s hard to do in a 20-minute presentation. I’m about making sure people have accurate information and that the proposal we put forward reflects the community’s desires.”