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District eyes bond for new school

District eyes bond for new school

Residents will vote in May on 1.5-cent tax increase

February 13th, 2018 by Jennifer Middleton in Texas News

Pleasant Grove Independent School District trustees voted Monday to call for a $19.9 million bond election to fund a new elementary school, renovate existing facilities districtwide and address security and technology issues.

The election is May 5.

The proposed rate of $1.455 per $100 property valuation would increase the district's interest and sinking rate by 1.5 cents; the maintenance and operations tax rate would remain at $1.09. The current total rate is $1.44.

If it passes, the increase would cost about $15 annually for a home valued at $100,000.

The $19.9 million bond breaks down to $250,000 for increased school security; $1.2 million for technology upgrades, which are primarily infrastructure; and $18,519,862 for the new school.

Taxpayers 65 and older who have homestead exemption would not pay the increased tax.

The bond election was recommended by the district's 27-member Facilities Committee, which has met several times since October.

"We addressed concerns expressed during the last two bond elections," Committee Member Bill Gooding told the board. "There have been two unsuccessful bond elections. A number of people have spoken, and it's time for us to act and move forward."

Those two elections also proposed a new elementary school, which would have been built on a tract of land the district owns near Bringle Lake. The district has been trying to sell the property since October, but has not received bids.

The order calling for the election includes a covenant that the new elementary school will not be built on that property, and that the district will seek to purchase property on which to build the school.

"It's the vision of the community," Board Member Kathleen Young said. "Some people want the shiny new nickel; we don't have the shiny new nickel. But what we have inside, nobody has that. I hope we get the community support."

Board President Fred Meisenheimer thanked the committee for its efforts to discover what was needed to upgrade district facilities.

"These are things as a board we've been looking at the past several years," he said. "It's nice to see the committee spend this effort and turn around and present to us what needs to be done."

The committee's findings included technology upgrades and security improvements, along with space to house the high school's growing career and technical education program. If the bond passes and a school is built, the current elementary would be turned into a CTE building for those programs.

"Some people were concerned that if we sold the elementary school, we weren't going to get full value," Gooding said. "As an educational institution, it has more value to be used as CTE than selling it."

Committee Member John Humphrey also addressed the board and outlined the district's current bonded indebtedness and said the elementary was absolutely needed to bring PG fully into the 21st Century.

"Education is what opens the doors to a child's future," he said. "At the end of the day we have made these recommendations, and as a community, we hope we'll come together."

Gooding also said a new elementary school would protect the district's legacy.

"PG has always been known as having excellence in education. That's something we need to maintain and strive to protect."

Superintendent Dr. Jason Smith said the district will plan a town hall meeting on the bond, possibly in April.

Absentee voting will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays April 23-May 1 at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, 6500 Pleasant Grove Road, Texarkana, Texas.

In other business, the board held a public hearing on the 2017 Texas Academic Performance Report. It shows PGISD is ahead of the state and region in all areas, including the STAAR testing results.

Julie McClurg, director of learning services, presented the TAPR and said PG is excelling, with scores 10-15 percent higher than other districts statewide.

The full report is available on the Texas Education Agency website, tea.texas.gov and will be posted on the district website, pgisd.net, within a couple of week, she said.

In other business, Smith told the board that January enrollment was 2,147, with 94.45 percent attendance. The district also contracted with Wilf & Henderson to complete the 2018 audit, as the company has performed the district's audits for the past several years. Trustees also accepted a $2,145 donation from Pleasant Grove patrons for new dictionaries at the intermediate school.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 15.

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