What’s next for $265M school bond? Trustees to review recommendations

The decision to bring a possible bond initiative to area voters this May now rests in the hands of the Hays CISD board of trustees.

On Monday, the board voted unanimously to accept the Hays CISD Growth Impact Committee’s recommendation for a possible May bond.

With the vote, the board gains control over the bond process, which ultimately will lead the board to decide on whether or not to call a bond election in February. The board did not, however, finalize the bond or items to go within a potential initiative.

Monday’s meeting was one of the first opportunities for the board to see the GIC’s recommended $265 million proposal, which, if approved by the board, would go on the ballot as a single proposition.

Ida Musgrove, chairperson of the GIC, said the group had a consensus on several items, including a new $122 million high school, two $33 million elementary schools and a new transportation facility. Some items led to debate, including discussion on a new baseball/softball complex at Hays High.

The GIC recommended the board attempt to include the complex in the bond in order to avoid potential Title IX violations due to lack of on-campus softball field at Hays High.

She said the recommendation “strikes a balance” between meeting the needs for students to “compete in a global economy” and the amount the district could ask for a bond. 

Board trustees raised questions on the recommendation, which ranged from cost of facilities, to the need for a new administration building, to a $900,000-plus upgrade to three campus libraries.

Carter Scherff, Hays CISD chief operations officer, said the district estimated the cost of construction at $250 per square foot for the new schools.

Trustee Esperanza Orosco asked about the importance of a new Central Services Center, which would house the district’s network facility. The CSC, a 100,000 square-foot, three-story facility estimated at $22 million, would be located on an acre-and-a-half property near the Performing Arts Center.

Dianne Borreson, Hays CISD Chief Technology Officer, said an outside firm evaluated the district’s Central Network Operations Center in 2008, which found it was “at capacity.” She added that at capacity, the district doesn’t have the “proper mechanical, proper electrical infrastructure.”

She said it shifted the discussion from building not just an administration building to where “the core of central services” can be located.

Orosco said she was “nervous” about the cost of the library upgrades. Kimbroly Pool, Chief Academic Officer, said the improvements would expand the Wallace and Barton middle and Kyle Elementary school libraries to add furniture, technology, and areas for a mobile maker space.

But when asked about the return on investmen in students by mobile maker space technology, district officials said there is no data locally as the technology is “too new in our district.”

Several residents who spoke during public comment, however, expressed concern over the GIC’s proposal.

One speaker asked the district to prioritize spending when it came to the bond.

“Are we going to invest in buildings, or are we going to invest in students and helping improve their performance and helping support the teachers who help support the students,” the speaker said.

One speaker echoed board trustee Willie Tenorio’s call for background information on how the district arrived at the square foot cost estimate for campuses.

One woman said the public didn’t have a “seat at the table” until after a formal recommendation was made.

“I feel it’s unfair … to ask the committee draw the line on spending without the benefit of a public hearing,” the speaker said.

Should the board choose, items within a possible bond could be finalized by Feb. 6.

The legal date to call an election is Feb. 17.

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