Voters in the Sherman Independent School District can visit their local polling places this week to begin the process for early voting in the district’s $176 million bond election. The Herald Democrat has spoken with Sherman ISD officials multiple times over the course of the past few months to discuss the election and what it means for voters.
Why does the proposed Sherman High School cost more than Denison’s new high school?
Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Tyson Bennett said at a Bond Awareness Meeting that costs for building projects will only go up the longer it takes to start building. He went on to say costs between Denison High School and the new Sherman High School are not comparable.
“The time at which they built Denison High School versus now there’s been tremendous changes,” Bennett said. “Although a lot of people like to compare Sherman and Denison and think we’re the same size, we have 2,875 more students. There’s been 40.5 percent inflation in construction just in North Texas since Denison’s high school was built. We say there’s going to be 6 percent inflation in the next year but we actually received a report from the construction folks today that said whenever they started looking at Hurricane Harvey and Irma it’s going to look like 10 percent inflation in construction over the next year.”
VLK architects estimated the costs for Sherman ISD. The costs are an estimate based on current and future building costs and other factors. The high school project has not gone out to bid and therefore no contractor or construction company has been chosen.
The estimated cost for the new proposed SHS is around $238 per square foot. Representatives from Northstar Builders Group took into account rising construction costs and labor shortages when proposing an estimate of $240 to $255 per square foot.
Is Sherman seeing growth?
Bennett explained the district has over 7,500 kids as of the Municipal Election Forum hosted by North Texas Young Professionals Wednesday night.
“That’s 400 more than we had at the beginning of the school year,” Bennett said. “We are seeing tremendous growth. We talked about having over 1,000 kids added to our schools in the last 10 years but that growth has been escalating more and more.”
SISD enrollment is at the highest it has ever been. Crutchfield Elementary’s current enrollment is 425 and its capacity is listed as 438. Fairview Elementary’s current enrollment is 414 and its capacity is listed as 358. Jefferson Elementary’s current enrollment is 227 and its capacity is listed as 270. Neblett Elementary’s current enrollment is 498 and its capacity is listed as 457. Sory Elementary’s current enrollment is 620 and its capacity is listed as 545. Wakefield Elementary’s current enrollment is 331 and its capacity is listed as 364. Washington Elementary’s current enrollment is 435 and its capacity is listed as 444. Dillingham Intermediate School’s current enrollment is 1,133 and its capacity is listed as 1,053. Piner Middle’s current enrollment is 1,040 and its capacity is listed as 926. Sherman High’s current enrollment is 1,913 and its capacity is listed as 1,452.
Are property valuations related to the school district?
The school district is in no way involved in the Central Appraisal District process. Sherman ISD and Grayson Central Appraisal District are separate entities. Sherman ISD does not control or influence property values.
SISD Director of Communications Emily Parks explained when revenue from property taxes goes up, school funding from the state goes down.
“When tax values go up, we don’t see a benefit,” Parks said. “A lot of people don’t understand that. I have encouraged people to contest their values because it doesn’t hurt us. It doesn’t impact the district at all.”
According to the GCAD website, directors are nominated and selected by the governing bodies of voting taxing units in the appraisal district. Voting taxing units for all appraisal districts are the county, cities and towns, and school districts participating in the district.
The appraisal district is required to appraise all property at market value as of Jan. 1 of every tax year. The Texas Property Tax Code Section 1.04 defines market value as the price a property would transfer for under current market conditions.
The values are appraised based on an assumption the property would be exposed for sale on the open market for a reasonable amount of time, the seller and purchaser would be informed of all the current and potential uses and purposes for the property as well as any restrictions on its use and if both seller and buyer are seeking to maximize their gains without taking advantage of the other party.
Does an athletic complex add value to the learning process?
The National Center for Education Statistics say on its website that research suggests participation in extracurricular activities may increase a student’s sense of engagement in school. This in turn, decreases the likelihood of failure and dropping out.
Students enrolled in extracurriculars are required to maintain attendance, conduct and grade requirements in order to participate. Additionally, they spend more time on campus at practices, meetings and rehearsal improving engagement and attendance.
The proposed new high school would include facilities to accommodate soccer, football and band. A track is included in the proposal, allowing the district to once again host competitive track meets. Competition baseball and softball fields and tennis courts complete the athletic offerings.
A multi-purpose indoor facility is proposed that would allow athletes, fine arts programs, community youth sports groups and other student groups access to practice facilities during inclement weather. The expanded field house facility would provide classroom, training, workout, learning and meeting space.
Is renovation of the current high school an option?
Additional portable buildings would have to be added to address overcrowding. Eight of the district’s schools average 65 years of age and have undergone 44 renovation phases in their lifetime. Renovations would cost a significant amount of money and would be only a short-term fix. That means additional cost in the long run as the cost of construction continues to rise and the existing eventuality of the need for new facilities.
A Citizens Advisory Committee comprised of community members both for and against the original bond election looked at options for renovation. After reviewing costs versus benefits of renovation, the committee concluded building new was best suited for addressing growth, capacity and the needs of the district.
Updates to the HVAC system at the current high school have been proposed to extend its life. In this way, the building can be repurposed as a middle school. This will allow the district to pull sixth grade up to the middle school level which will provide space at the elementary level.
What are the other tax rates in the area?
The total tax rate for the Sherman ISD is $1.44 per $100 valuation of property. The district has not increased its property tax rate since 2009. With the 21-cent increase proposed, it would move to $1.65 per $100 valuation.
Other tax rates in the area include: Denison at $1.49, McKinney at $1.62, Van Alstyne at $1.52, Howe at $1.56, Anna at $1.67, Melissa at $1.67, Celina at $1.64, Gunter at $1.62 and Prosper at $1.67.
What does SISD’s debt look like?
SISD has $12 million owed from 1994 bond projects and approximately $56 million from 2005 bond projects, for a total of about $68 million in bond debt, or about 2.3 percent of its taxable values.
Bennett said the district has aggressively paid down debt over the last eight years.
“We have paid down debt so aggressively that we have saved tax payers $28 million in interest alone,” Bennett said. “We have also been refinancing. There are certain things we are doing to save and build up a capacity knowing that in the future we are going to have to build again.”