August 17, 2022 505 PM
MARFA — This week, the Marfa Independent School District Board of Trustees called an election in which citizens will vote whether or not to approve a $57 million school bond for a new kindergarten through twelfth-grade campus, a career and technology addition to the high school, and other district-wide improvements.
The calling of the election, which will be the largest bond amount ever requested by the district, was approved by all board members, who followed the decision with a round of applause at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“The proposal that was recommended and called, if approved, could not only increase academic and career training options, but improve the facility’s safety for all students and staff,” said Superintendent Oscar Aguero.
Voters will decide whether to greenlight the bond initiative in the upcoming November 8 General Election. At a recent meeting, the district’s bond advisor said property taxes on a $200,000 home, for example, would increase by a rate of $46.67 a month or or $560 annually if the bond proposal passes. The bond would be paid off over a period of thirty years, have an estimated interest rate of 5.2% and be insured by The Texas Permanent School Fund.
The $57 million bond would be in addition to outstanding debt the district is still paying off for two bonds passed in 2003 and 2007 which currently have a balance of just under $6 million and are schedule to be paid off by 2036.
All homeowners may apply for the $40,000 homestead exemptions for their primary residences. Homeowners 65 and older qualify to have their school district property taxes frozen, meaning they will not increase unless significant improvements that add square footage are made on their property. The freeze only applies to primary residences which must also be homesteaded.
The idea to go out for a bond to pay for large-scale infrastructure upgrades was discussed throughout the summer in three community meetings hosted by the district. There, board members and school staff made the case for the bond to the public: school facilities are outdated, they said, hindering a modern learning environment, and were experiencing numerous structural issues that were becoming too costly to continue to repair. Improving school security was also discussed at length. MISD’s campus was never master planned and consists of buildings constructed and renovated across decades.
Meeting attendance varied and included parents, teachers, city council members, retired staff, community members and more. Common issues that were brought up were public perceptions of the bond during a time of financial strain due to inflation and increased property taxes as well as decreased school enrollment.
The first meeting included around a dozen individuals, the second even fewer — which led to board members encouraging more to voice their concerns — and the third and final meeting saw around 15 attendees primarily discussing the financial specifics of the bond. Aguero said the district believed the meetings resulted in a consensus that the bond was recommended.
A new K-12 school would house around 300 students and cost around $52 million (accounting for inflation), including demolitions. The school’s enrollment has been steadily declining for decades and has 269 students currently enrolled. A new campus, in addition to addressing security concerns, would be complete with all new technology, which some board members suggested might help retain students and teachers. The idea to have an open greenspace for students and the public as well as open up new and improved facilities for public events has been discussed.
If the bond passes, the junior high and high school campus will be utilized to house all students during the three-year construction phase for the new school. A bond committee, which would spend nearly a year designing new facilities, will also be established should the bond pass. From now until the election, the district will work to distribute factual information about the bond, via handouts and a bond website, and encourage citizens to vote on November 8.
For questions or more information regarding the bond election, call MISD administration at 432-729-5500 or email [email protected]