For the second consecutive voting cycle, Waxahachie residents will decide the fate of a proposed bond to address population growth.
The Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved to move forward with a $23 million bond election for a new elementary school during their regular session Monday, Feb. 12.
The proposed bond was publicly discussed last Monday, Feb. 5 during a workshop session between the trustees and district administration staff. It will be placed on the May ballot for all city residents.
Before Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn entertained a motion for the bond during the superintendent's report, he reiterated the district would "not have to levy a tax-rate increase" to pay off the bond. Glenn also noted that, while the district can control its tax rate, WISD does not set property valuations used for property tax purposes.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, which is held before any action items are considered, several community members spoke in opposition to any proposed bond.
Monica Nyenhuis, who had five children attend Waxahachie ISD and nine grandchildren currently in the district, said she was "speechless and grateful" after touring the new high school. However, she is concerned with what she called "flagrant and outrageous spending."
"When I was in the school, the first thought I had was 'I have moved to Beverly Hills,'" Nyenhuis continued. She added the building was beautiful but had nothing to do with education.
"Do we need new classrooms? Absolutely," she said. "Here's the deal, you built that new high school. You added 2,500 seats. You already have 2,500 seats. It may not be in the buildings you like, may not be in the locations. There wasn't thought and planning that went into this decision."
Sylvia Colston is a 27-year volunteer with Waxahachie ISD. She admitted to having voted for bonds in the past but recently began to vote against, starting with the 2010 bond to upgrade Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium and other athletic facilities.
Colston began by explaining the district's current debt is well over $228 million, which she stated is due to paid off around 2045.
“We are mortgaging their future with these taxes,” said Colston, who then asked the board to “get creative” with the district’s budget. She concluded by instructing the board to not "ask for any more money from us.”
Board member Matt Authier clarified that the trustees have done a lot of reflecting since the last bond proposal failed in November 2017. Authier called the failed bond a “punch to the face.” He then explained this bond is a “slimmed down version” of the November bond and said the growth projections are “really scary” when looking at the next three years with the current campus capacities.
“This board has done a lot of soul-searching over the last three months," Authier said. "[…] But to say we didn’t feel the voters who turned out last time would be a severe understatement.” He also noted the district and board will be “extremely transparent” and “diligent” over the upcoming process.
Board president James Villarreal added, “we are growing” and "that is because we have awesome schools.”
Authier said, “They (new residents) want to be here because they see what is going on across the school district."
Villarreal also stated, “I don’t want my taxes to go up any more than you do. […] And we are able to that without a tax increase.”
Board member Dusty Autrey added, “$23 million is a lot of money, but that is the market right now.”
Autrey also agreed that property taxes do have something to do with the school board because “people want to be here," which leads to an increase in property values.
Trustee Gary Fox explained the district intends to reuse the blueprints for the proposed elementary school as a way to be frugal moving forward. Clay Schoolfield first voiced the idea during last week's workshop session. The change in procedure could potentially save the district $2.2 million on each future elementary school built.
The board also approved to call a May 5 joint election with the City of Waxahachie during the superintendent's report. Glenn then noted that, due to spring break, the next regular session of the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees is Monday, March 19.
Due to page constraints, the rest of Monday's recap of the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees Monday meeting will run Friday, Feb. 16 in the Daily Light.