Cumby ISD Board is considering calling for a bond election to be held May 1, 2021, which would fund safety and security improvements, renovations to the existing high school and elementary building, construction of a new school building and ag shop, and prepare the district for potential future growth.
The school board and administrators presented information regarding the potential bond election during community meeting hosted in the school cafeteria Saturday morning, and made available for streaming on Zoom and livestreamed on the CumbyISD Youtube channel. Approximately 15 people joined the district officials at the school and four more signed into Zoom. The livestream on YouTube was recorded and is available for viewing. As of 7:20 p.m. Monday, 38 people had viewed the community meeting on YouTube, either while it was broadcast or afterward.
The bond, if called for a vote, is expected to be for at least $7.34 million, but could be higher, as additional calculations show the district’s bonding capacity is greater than originally expected, officials reported at a community meeting held Saturday morning, Jan. 30, in the school cafeteria. The proposed location and design of buildings takes into account potential future growth. Relocations and new construction could occur while students remain in current facilities without a disruption to education, the Cumby ISD officials noted.
The board also discussed the possibility of putting two issues on the ballot, one for primary improvements and an additional option which could also provide funding for construction of a track. A proposal is expected to be presented to Cumby ISD Board of trustees during a special meeting on Feb. 11, just before the Feb. 12 deadline to call for an election.
The renovations being proposed at the elementary level would provide two levels of entry at the building entrance before visitors have access to students as an added safety measure, canopies and sidewalks to protect students from the elements when being dropped off or picked up and bus loading and unloading, updating the playground to replace deteriorating equipment and enclosing it to better secure it and address drainage issues that have created flooding and standing water at the cafeteria and football field and has been running under the building, add a break area for elementary teachers, enlarge and renovate the cafeteria to better accommodate student growth and school functions. The current projection of renovation costs for the elementary is estimated at $660,8000.
The district is proposing creating a new high school with labs and career and technology education classrooms, driveways and parking, and a new metal ag shop as the current facility needs more space and ventilation to better accommodate the number of students, necessary equipment and guidelines for ventilation. The most recent estimate for a new high school with labs and CTE facilities and driveways/parking was about $5.28 million. A new metal ag shop is projected to cost almost $1.1 million.
The current high school would then be converted to an intermediate campus, with renovations so the students wouldn’t have to cross the street for lunch and would get students out of portable buildings into buildings with secure entries. The cost to convert the building to an intermediate campus, with interior renovations and added eating space, is projected to be about $224,000.
Several other identified potential projects are also being considered. One potential option being considered is a finished track to provide a safer place for students to run than on the city street, district officials noted Saturday. Other options being considered are a new gym with the football stadium behind it.
Currently, the school’s tax rate is $1.17. If the district calls for a bond election, asking the voters to consider approving a bond for $7,341,000 later this month, the cost would raise the Cumby ISD school tax rate by 29-cents. However, depending on which, if any, projects are chosen, the bond election could be $7.94 million to $8.4 million, which would increase the tax rate by 32 to 34 cents per $100 property valuation.
School officials emphasized passing a bond election would have no affect on the school taxes for citizens age 65 or older who have a homestead exemption filed with the district; their taxes would continue to be the same rate they were frozen at, unless the property owner makes significant improvements to their home which would increase it’s appraised value, unless the property’s value decreases, then the rate would be filed accordingly. Texas law prevents the dollar amount of school taxes imposed on the residence homestead of a person 65 years of age or older from increasing above the amount paid the first year after the person turned 65, regardless of a change in the school tax rate or property value, unless significant improvements are made to the home.
Passing a bond now, instead of waiting would take advantage of historically low interest rates, down as low as 2.14 percent, for repayment of the bond fund over the next 30 years. Depending on the interest rate, tax appraisals, the amount of the bond proposed, the tax rate could potentially be lower than projected, and likely would go down at some point, as other debts are paid off.
If a bond is called and passed by voters on May 1, 2021, ground could potentially be broken on the project as early as the end of 2021, get under way in 2022 with completion in 2023.
One meeting attendee, who has served more than 20 years on the school board, noted that this is the first time the district has had a clear-cut long term plan for structures, as opposed to adding a building as it becomes necessary. This plan factors in future growth, age and rate of deterioration of existing buildings.
There are a lot of factors still to be considered, including whether to or not to call for a bond, whether to include extras, and if they are included on the ballot, whether they should be presented as one bond package or separately as included pieces, to be considered. Regardless of the school board’s decision regarding the potential bond election, the board and Superintendent Shelly Slaughter emphasized Cumby ISD will remain open and will continue to serve those students enrolled in the district.
That means a lot of work is still planned before a bond proposal is ready to be considered by the school board. The Facilities Committee chaired by community members Bobby Yarbrough and Joe Salinas plans to meet again before the planed Feb. 11 Cumby ISD Board of Trustees meeting at which time the board is expected to consider calling for a bond election. Community members should also watch the online and the district account, for places for community comments and concerns regarding a potential bond election.
If Cumby ISD Board of Trustees does call for a May 1 bond election, it would be the second time the board has called for a bond election for facilities improvements. Cumby ISD voters were asked during the Nov. 5, 2019 election to consider approving a school bond. In the early ballots, 60 percent of voters were in favor of the bond for school improvements and 40 percent voted against it. However, once Election Day totals were in, the bond was defeated by only 10 votes.
Superintendent Shelly Slaughter noted that district officials listened to community concerns voiced in 2019, including a need for parking, funding for concessions and restrooms, an unfinished track, and wording of the 2019 bond proposal which included the football field but did not seem to outline the full scope of the planned project at that time. She said some asked previously why not just tear down the existing elementary and/or cafeteria and build a new one. That was not proposed because of the amount the district has invested in the cafeteria; the cost to construct a new one would be very expensive.
The plans under consideration this year differ from those presented for voter consideration in 2019 in that the football stadium will remain in its current location instead of being moved to allow for construction of an elementary addition. This plan to does not call for an addition, but renovations at the elementary campus, and reorganization of grade levels with elementary housing only prekindergarten through second grade. Intermediate/middle school would house students in grades 3-8, and the high school campus as currently proposed would house grades 9-12, Slaughter noted.
Additional information would be communicated by Cumby ISD to the community regarding what, if any, bond proposal or proposals would fund, and what that would mean for tax payers, before May 1.