by BRAD ROLLINS
An appointed advisory committee has recommended that trustees ask San Marcos CISD voters in a May election to approve the sale of $80 million in bonds to pay for new, expanded and renovated facilities.
|Proposed San Marcos CISD capital improvement projects:
Subtotal: $69.64 million
Renovations and additions
Subtotal: $19.82 million
Subtotal: $8.85 million
Grand total: $98,610,000
The broad package of capital improvements endorsed by the 19-member group includes construction of pre-Kindergarten and Phoenix Learning Center buildings; renovations or additions at three elementary and two middle schools; and a new administration building, stadium, student activity complex, and indoor swimming pool.
All told, the projects will cost $98.6 million as estimated by Daren Kirbo of Huckabee architects, the Fort Worth-based firm hired by district administrators.
Committee co-chair Mark Newton said the group shaved about $21.4 million off Huckabee’s original $120 million proposal and settled on $80 million as a figure they think voters can support.
“Everything that we talked about is not a Cadillac version. [The package] is needed for our students. It is needed for our community. But there is the reality of what can pass and what we can afford,” said Newton, the First Baptist Church pastor who chaired the group with Bobby Pacheco, a commercial salesman at Tuttle Lumber.
Trustees answered the recommendation with a barrage of pointed questions for Superintendent Mark Eads during a specially called meeting on Monday. Trustees told Eads to schedule a workshop next week to examine the proposals more closely.
“I don’t know where these numbers came from. I’m not real comfortable making a decision for an $80 million bond. I need to see more than what we’re seeing,” said trustee Judy Allen, who said construction of suitable pre-K facilities should be the district’s top priority, as did trustee Lupe Costillo.
Others questioned the need for a $26.6 million stadium or a $11.4 million natatorium when Texas State University and the city of San Marcos allow the district to use their facilities for football games and swim practice.
“What are needs and what are wants? … If you did an assessment in any district — or if if you sent a home inspector into anyone of our houses — they could probably come in and say this needs to be done, and that needs to be done, or whatever. … Clearly there are needs that every campus has, but I don’t know of any district that goes back and addresses every single thing that needs to be done,” trustee John Crowley said.
Making debt payments on 25- to 30-year bonds will require a seven-cent increase to San Marcos CISD’s property tax rate, currently set at $1.35 per $100 in property value, the district’s financial advisor, Dan Wegmiller of Specialized Public Finance Inc., told trustees.
After twice rejecting major capital improvement program packages early last decade, San Marcos CISD voters in May 2004 approved selling $122.7 million in bonds to pay for four new and five renovated campuses plus a Support Services building for maintenance and transportation departments.
Citing escalating construction costs, the district ran out of money before completing all the projects and trustees had to return to voters in 2007 to ask for an additional $14.3 million in debt capacity.
An election will have to be called by March 1 to make the May ballot, Eads said.
CORRECTION: This story originally said the advisory committee was appointed by Superintendent Mark Eads. Nominations were made by school board members and administrators and all the nominated committee members were appointed, Eads said.