According to a recent interview with Superintendent Juan Cabrera on KFOX, one of the first steps with the new EPISD bond is to assign a bond oversight committee. How will the select individuals for the committee? “In terms of the makeup, it’s up to the trustees and how they decide to want to select it,” Cabrera said. “More than likely, each trustee will get a couple of choices and I myself as superintendent will get a couple of choices.”
So, if each trustee will get a couple of choices, we thought we would let everyone know how to contact the trustees so that people could volunteer:
Bob Geske: firstname.lastname@example.org
Al Velarde: email@example.com
Susie Byrd: firstname.lastname@example.org
Diane Dye: email@example.com
Chuck Taylor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trent Hatch: email@example.com
Dori Fenenbock: firstname.lastname@example.org
The EPISD Board of Trustees haven’t actually asked for any volunteers. However, if they are going to get “… a diverse group of people that represents the community, whether that’s a part of town, or what they do,” (as Susie Byrd stated), then why not let the community volunteer? So, if you are interested, LET THEM KNOW! You need to hurry, they are trying to have the committee established by next Wednesday.
According to the El Paso Times, A committee of nearly 80 members has finished their “plan that would rebuild, renovate and consolidate schools in the 60,000-student district.” If the EPISD puts the $668.7 million package on the ballot, it would be the 17th largest school bond proposed in Texas and the largest bond proposal ever for El Paso County, according to the Bond Review Board.
The EPISD Trustees will decide next week how much of the bond to approve and whether or not it should be voted on in November. So far, many of the trustees have indicated that they will support the bond in its entirety: “The committee has decided that this is the size of the bond that needs to go through,” Trustee Al Velarde said. “For me to change that, I think, would bring into question why we started the committee in the first place.”
How does this affect your property taxes? Well, first of all, “the bonds would be issued in three phases, EPISD Chief Financial Officer Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria said.” So, your property taxes would go up gradually (because that has worked so well for what the City and County have been doing with their bonds). Ultimately, this would raise property taxes by 18.8 cents to $1.42 per $100 valuation. A family owning a $138,000 home would pay an additional $17.72 per month (around $212.64 a year).
So, there you have it. Most likely the Trustees are going to approve the entire bond next week and then you will get an opportunity to vote on it. Now we just have to wait and see how much the City is going to raise our property taxes, how UMC is going to cover their projected $15.8 million in losses, and what the County is going to include in their budget.
EPISD has started determining which projects will go into the bond initiative. So far, they have agreed on $527.3 million worth. However, this number could go up as the Facilities Advisory Committee considers more projects on August 2 and presents their final list to the EPISD Board of Trustees on August 9th. So far, here is what is in it:
- Merging Bradley and Fannin elementaries at the Bradley site — $20.8 million
- Closing Clardy Elementary and relocating students to a new prekindergarten through eighth-grade school built at the current Henderson Middle — $42.3 million
- Closing Bond and Roberts elementaries and relocating students to a pre-K-eight school built at the current Lincoln Middle — $47.8 million
- Consolidating Bonham Elementary and MacArthur School — $19.9 million
- Merging Johnson Elementary and Morehead Middle into a pre-K-eight — $38.0 million
- Merging Schuster, Crosby and Dowell elementaries into a new elementary built at the Dowell site — $30.6 million
- Merging Collins Elementary and Terrace Hills Middle into a pre-K-eight — $38.3 million
- Building a new Northeast middle school to replace Bassett Middle — $34.6 million
However, we have to agree with Brutus, nowhere have they stated what they are going to do with the buildings that are closed. Will the property be sold? Will it be renovated? What impact would doing either of those items have on raising or lowering the bond? It would appear that we are only getting half of the story.
Additionally, school closures are a tricky subject. Before the meeting began Thursday, two South Central residents, Guillermo Glen and Hilda Villegas, resigned from the committee. The residents said: “With the proposal of closing Beall elementary and sending 450 children to a school that’s in an area that’s high trafficked. As well as now a proposal to include by TxDOT another highway that’s going to put our children even more at risk.” According to KFOX: Villegas said Beall Parent Community is starting to move forward with legal council. “We went ahead and resigned, and as a community, we’ve gone ahead and consulted lawyers,” Villegas said. “They already signed a contract with us.” If this results in their school staying open, we predict that many other parents will follow suit. This could result in a very expensive and complicated process.
Then there are the teacher’s raises. Last month EPISD announced that they were not raising your property taxes but that they were going to give the teachers a 1.5% raise. HOWEVER, they were hoping that they would be able to give the teachers an even higher raise with the passage of the bond: “With a bond approval in November, the district said it can consolidate more campuses and increase salaries.” Before we vote, are they going to tell us how much all of this consolidation will raise teacher’s salaries?
Although EPISD has reported that there is widespread support for the bond (The El Paso Times claims that “60 percent of the 350 respondents somewhat or strongly supported a $600 million bond initiative”), support for a bond decreased when voters learned of the potential tax impact. What kind of weird survey was it that asked them if they supported the bond without telling them how much it was going to cost them? Maybe they are going to use that $250,000 of your money that they already approved for marketing to ‘educate’ the public.