Last week the Denison ISD school board held a public hearing to receive feedback from the community regarding the newly proposal bond to expand two elementary campuses. Following a special called meeting of the Denison Independent School board, Superintendent Henry Scott clarified what the district’s bond capacity was closer to $100, not $30 million.
The bond capacity issue was raised when talking about the ability of the district to have the funds to borrow money for projects. A higher bond capacity means the school district could borrow a larger amount than the $20.8 million it was asking voters to approve.
During the course of the meeting board member Bob Rhodan raised the question of bond capacity and if that was taken into consideration when the facility planning committee was making its recommendation.
Scott told Rhodan the district had far greater bonding capacity than just $30 million. In the meeting he stated the district could go as high as $50-60 million. In a phone call Thursday he clarified this saying he learned from the financial advisor for the district the bond capacity was closer to $100 million.
Scott said bonding capacity was never a part of the discussions with the facility committee and the purpose was to find a proposal the district could pass in the short term while giving it time to look into adding a new campus in the future.
The issue continues to be what to do with Houston Elementary. Scott said the district would need to shut that campus down in order to have the funds to staff a new campus, and the added cost of that as well as the need to build a campus large enough to take those students was a major contributing factor to why the recommendation that was presented was passed.
Moving forward the district will revisit the facility planning and adding a new campus will come up eventually.
At the meeting there was some confusion over the district’s published policy regarding allocating public comments. At the meeting there were four speakers who addressed the board who used all the allotted 15 minutes for discussion. Board President David Hawley ended discussion from the public after the time was up. There was some immediate push back from people in the audience who expressed their desire to speak. Board member Randy Sedlacek asked if that was the official policy which president Hawley confirmed the district’s policy states public participation is limited to 15 minutes and participants had to sign up ahead of time.
Scott reached out to clarify the matter on Thursday saying it is true the district does have that stated in the policy but he admitted it is also true that this it was the first time the board had ever had that many people sign up to speak. He said under normal circumstances the sign up sheet is always present but rarely is it used. He said he is asking the board to change the policy going forward to give the public more time to comment.
Regarding the proponents being at the front of the meeting, Scott said the sign up sheet only has space for the person’s name and topic they wish to address, it does not ask whether the person is for or against. He also said the participants who signed up had called the district in advance to ensure their spot on the list.
Scott is going to ask the school board to amend the policy to remove the sign up requirement in at attempt to garner additional feedback from the community. He said that is in addition to planning open meetings that will take place at Mayes and Hyde Park elementary campuses over the next couple of months as the district begins to inform the public on what the school board is asking voters to approve.