POTTSBORO — The Pottsboro Independent School District’s board of trustees held a special meeting Tuesday to create a trimmed-down version of the initial bond package proposed to the group back in February.
The board spent five hours discussing projects, prices and priorities, before coming to a consensus on a still-somewhat-fluid $54 million bond package. The proposal includes a new $27 million elementary school, a $15.6 million renovation of the middle school, $2.8 million in renovations to Pottsboro High School and $2.5 million in district-wide technology upgrades. The publicly staffed Community Facilities Team presented the board with a $61 million version of the bond back in February after the district tasked the group with developing a series of projects to update Pottsboro ISDs aging facilities. The board did not call a bond election following the presentation but instead pledged to workshop the bond package in the following months. Pottsboro ISD Superintendent Kevin Matthews said the prices discussed Tuesday reflected estimates generated between December 2016 and April 2017.
“We have wallowed this thing up one side and down the other,” Board President Jim Copeland said of the proposed bond package. “We have talked it to death. We’ve got our community assessment team’s opinions, we’ve talked to architects, the superintendent, assistant superintendent, everybody has given their input on this deal.”
Copeland, who suffered from a self-diagnosed case of “sticker shock” after the first iteration of the bond was proposed five months ago, called for unity among this fellow trustees and their revision. And he reminded the group that if it did eventually call a bond election and for a subsequent increase in the tax rate, it had better be one Pottsboro property owners could still stomach on top of rising property values.
“We would be asking our taxpayers to absorb two tax increases in the same calendar year — one from the appraisal district and one from the bond,” Copeland said. “That’s a double whammy.”
(The Grayson Central Appraisal District does not set tax rates but does appraise properties. The appraised values are used to calculate the taxes owed to each taxing entity base upon the rate set by that entity.)
Fellow members of the board also took time to point out what they believe to be the most important considerations in adjusting the bond. Recently re-elected board member Jody Lipscomb called for a focus on facility updates, as he felt the district’s existing buildings were quickly approaching their expiration dates if they hadn’t reached them already.
“The 1,300 kids that are in this district have gone through a junior high that’s dilapidated,” Lipscomb said “That’s a major concern of mine. It’s not the growth, it’s our current facilities aren’t adequate for our kids.”
Matthews called on the board to avoid decreasing the budget for technology and digital device upgrades, adding that he felt the district had already stretched its current electronic equipment well beyond its limitations.
“If we’re going to cut, technology is not where we do it,” Matthews said. “We need to go back and cut something else. That’s how important the technology is and that’s how strongly I feel about it.”
With the district’s financial landscape and trustees’ most pressing concerns laid out, the group reviewed the specifications for each project as originally proposed and whittled away at additional features, square footage and the like. The group calculated prices, compared the spending of other districts and, after weighing the benefits and costs side by side, reached an agreement on virtually all the proposed changes and trimmings. The result was a tentative $7 million drop in cost from the first-round proposal.
Copeland said he, the trustees, district administrators and many others would continue to examine the Pottsboro ISD’s needs in the months ahead and would make changes as necessary. But he felt the revision reached Tuesday got all to a relatively solid starting point.
“Basically we think this is somewhere in the neighborhood of where we need to be,” Copeland said of the revised package. “We’re going to check, double check and recheck our numbers, go through every line item in there.”
Should the Pottsboro ISD board of trustees vote to call a bond election for November, the next month in which they are legally allowed to hold such a vote, the board will have to make that decision by mid-August in order to comply with state election guidelines.