I would like to share some thoughts on the Pottsboro ISD Bond election being held in November. I am doing so in my capacity as a taxpayer in the district, and as a parent to a child in the district. I have been involved in the decision making process for a number of years.
First, I would ask everyone to remember that it is expected that there will be those for and against the bond. The school board has worked hard to bring a proposal to the taxpayers, and it is up to the taxpayers to provide guidance through the voting process on what its vision for Pottsboro ISD is. It is a democratic process and folks will see things through different lenses. If the proposed bond is close to being in line with what the majority of taxpayers want, we will move forward. If not, we will step back and continue to work towards that vision, whatever it may be. But above all, we should always be respectful of everyone’s right to ask questions and voice an opinion and work to ensure no one distorts facts or presents an unrealistic view of the truth. We are all Cardinals.
I have had some conversations with folks who disagree with the size of the bond, but no one has taken issue with the need for some facilities. Our elementary campus is at capacity, and our middle school campus is nearing capacity, beyond its lifespan and now costly to maintain. Additionally, there is not much debate that the district is expected to see continued growth, and we can all agree we have an obligation to educate our children. So the real questions revolves around how to manage the growth and what role do existing facilities play in that.
Personally, I was hoping this bond could have come in around the $40 million mark, and initially thought it was possible. However, doing this without building a new campus would have involved significant piecemeal construction, mixing new construction to much older construction and by no means ideal. One could easily conclude it would be a poor investment that would result in high costs later. It was determined that the lowest cost campus to construct was an elementary school because an elementary school doesn’t require nearly as many support facilities.
The land for the proposed elementary was purchased after extensive consideration was given to the existing acreage owned by the district next to the high school. We were aware that previous community leaders purchased additional land with the expectation that it could provide the district additional growth opportunity. However, this land (located next to high school) presented some significant challenges. The increased traffic in and out of the campus was problematic and considered dangerous. Also, the cost to level the land was tremendous, significantly more than other options available. And the trend for school district construction now is to break up campuses, not cluster them. Once the decision to propose to build a new elementary was reached, the dollars for that became set, approximately $27 million.
So if you move the elementary to the new campus, what do you then do with the existing elementary? Considering that the middle school is the oldest facility in our district and very costly to maintain due to antiquated heating and cooling that can’t be replaced, the option of moving the middle school there seemed like a good one. The cost to renovate this facility, compared to new construction of a middle school, was tremendously less even with the construction of a storm shelter there. I will add that the cost of construction is staggering, but it has done nothing but trend up the last few years and there is no indication it is going to slow down anytime soon.
Now came the challenge of managing/mixing new state of art technology infrastructure with those existing facilities that are aged and outdated. When you consider the role technology plays in education today, and wrap your head around what role it will play tomorrow, it was evident that a districtwide update was essential, perhaps more important than anything else. The decision was to propose a districtwide technology upgrade. This is pulling new cable in every building, replacing equipment, and freshening up classroom equipment used in the educational process. With high-speed data now available to our facilities, it would be very useful to our kids to be able to utilize it.
There are also some funds included for the high school to upgrade and improve career tech facilities and add a storm shelter, as well as upgrade and add on to the existing field house.
Currently, Pottsboro ISD has (by far) the lowest tax rate of any district in Grayson County. This board and administration has worked diligently, reducing the tax rate each of the last few years, knowing the day would come when we would need to again invest in infrastructure. When the new district service facility was built two years ago, the board found a way to pay for this through reserve, again in an attempt to minimize bond impact. If part 1 of this bond passed, I believe we would still have a lower tax rate than more than half of the other districts in the county. And consider this is at the peak of indebtedness, the district would be set, and future boards would then have the opportunity to reduce rates as repayment occurs.
The decisions made by the board were based on the results of a community team of 17 citizens and 24 district employee/citizens that spent a year researching these issues. They brought a recommendation for $61 million in district improvements, that the board carved down to the existing $54 million ask. The decision as also based on discussions with our friends and neighbors as well as our personal combined experience of many years serving on this board. Could we have chosen to do less? Absolutely. However, I for one would like to not kick the can down the road, and leave a future board to have to go through this and at a much higher construction cost. I also believe that folks want to see our district continue to push the boundaries, to be as cutting edge as we are capable of being, and to be known as one of the top districts in our region. To do this requires adequate facilities, modern technology, and retention of the best possible teachers.
If you ask people in Grayson County what they think about Pottsboro, Texas, the answer usually starts with “PISD has really, really good schools.” They are right! Our kids are performing well, and many are going to top colleges and trade schools. Last year our graduates earned over $3 million in scholarships! I believe this bond puts us on a path that will help us to continue to provide a top-tier education and resolves our facility issues for many years.
Brett Graham is a member of the Pottsboro Independent School District board of trustees. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the bond, visit https://www.pisdbond.com/.