Residents of Bells voted in favor of issuing $8 million in bonds toward improvements to Bells High School when they went to the polls Saturday. The measure passed with 70.73 percent of the votes counted Saturday.
When polls closed Saturday, 358 Bells residents voted in favor of issuing the bond, while 144 voted against. Grayson County election officials noted that the election results would not be official until the last mail in ballots were counted Monday, but the Bells bond election was not listed as one that would likely change.
“One-hundred percent of these bond funds will be used to provide needed improvements to our high school,” Superintendent Joe Moore said Saturday.
Moore said the improvements package will include upgrades throughout the school, including the expansion of student commons area and the creation of additional learning spaces within the school. However, the largest improvement will likely be the addition of two new state-of-the-art science labs to the school. One lab will be focused on biology while the other will be used for physics and chemistry, Moore said.
Other improvements will also add onto the school's agriculture shop with deeper bay and new welding equipment, Moore said.
Another highlight of the proposed expansion is a 40-seat classroom dedicated to the school's college readiness classes. Moore said the space will be used for high school students who are taking college-level courses, including English, government, economics and history, while still attending high school. While Grayson College provides an instructor for the programs, Moore said the school needs the extra room for the program.
If any bond funds are remaining, Moore said they will be used to add additional classrooms into the school addition.
Leading into Saturday's vote, Moore said he was optimistic of the chances, noting that the effect on property taxes is expected to be minor. Based on recent increases in property value, Moore said it was expected to be a rate increase of about two cents or less.
“However, you are never going to be 100 percent when you are raising taxes,” Moore said, noting the possibility for opposition.
Moore said that there was some confusion on how the funds would be used and what projects would be funded by the bond. The district does plan to improve its baseball and softball facilities, but Moore said this would be funded using district fund balance and not the bond itself.
However, Moore said the project did hinge on the bond passing. If it did fail, the district would instead invest the fund balance on the new labs, he said.
Starting next week, Moore said district officials would start work on the design phase of the project, with construction on the addition expected to start in November. Once school lets out in May 2019, construction on the renovations of the existing building are expected to start, with plans to open the new facilities in time for the 2019-2020 school year.
With more than two-thirds voting in favor of the bond, Moore said he was pleased with the support the community had given not only to the current generation of students, but generations of students to come.
“We wanted to hear from folks, and they got out to vote, so we are pleased,” he said.