‘It’s now or never:’ Three McLennan County school districts ask voters to approve proposal that would raise taxes to benefit schools
MCLENNAN COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) – Three Central Texas school districts will have additional proposals on the ballot this election to improve schools and help teachers.
Crawford ISD, West ISD and China Spring ISD are proposing tax rate changes.
“We’re running out of classroom space, they’re completely out of classroom space there,” said Crawford ISD Superintendent Kenneth Hall.
Crawford ISD is proposing a $10 million bond that will essentially expand the schools to keep up with the growth and increase in small group classes.
The connection will completely renovate a historic high school and add additional facility needs to account for school growth.
Most of the bond will go toward renovating the historic high school.
“The bulk of that $10 million is going to be for the renovation, the rebuilding of that building,” Hall said. “And, also, to reuse some things from the rest of that building in the new building.”
He said this project will provide six additional classrooms for the high school. Hall also added that they would potentially move fifth graders from the elementary school to the middle school if the proposal is approved.
The bond will also go partially toward building a tennis court for the growing Pirate tennis team.
“We have a number of students who are involved in this, and currently we practice in the parking lot behind the gym, which is not a tennis court,” he said. “This is a growing program and a lot of interest in that program, so it would add four tennis courts.”
The third related project would add parking to the front of the elementary school.
“When we have programs up there, there’s just not enough parking, so it would create additional parking, but also, more importantly, it would allow us to fence off the back of our campus, which would protect our corner games in that area and also behind our cafeteria for security purposes,” Hall said.
The project would allow the school to keep up with the growing community and attendance.
“This connection will provide us with room for growth,” Hall said. “It won’t create enough classroom space for a huge amount of growth…but it will provide some immediate growth needs.”
The school district needs help from the community to make this happen. The school district is proposing that voters pass the proposal to raise the tax rate by 13 cents, so instead of the tax rate being $1.14, it would have to be $1.27 to trigger the bond .
“This rate at $1.27 is still lower than the tax rate when I got here 14 years ago,” he said.
West ISD is finally enjoying its latest bonding project, a new West Elementary School.
They passed the bond with community approval to raise the tax to $1.37 for one year. After that one year, they are able to lower it again.
“Because of all our work on the debt side, we’re just about, after a year, to pay it back,” West ISD Superintendent David Truitt said.
The district could lower that to about $1.12; however, the proposal goes to an additional 3 cents. All this will go towards increasing teachers’ salaries.
Unlike other larger school districts, they were unable to pay teachers for the upcoming school year.
“We’re going from one of the highest in McLennan County to one of the lowest and, with this news, we’re saying to our taxpayers, please support our teachers and staff,” Truitt said. “They have a very challenging job. It is becoming more and more challenging to find new candidates for openings, so we want to retain and achieve the best possible staff to work with our children.”
He said if passed, the increase would take effect in December.
“After that, since it’s been passed, it’s been passed now for every year, our taxpayers don’t have to come back and pass it in another election,” Truitt said. “From now on, it will be included in their monthly salaries, and so what a good thing for our teachers.”
China Spring ISD also struggled with hiring and raising salaries for teachers.
“We don’t want to lose all of our good teachers,” said China Spring ISD Superintendent Marc Faulkner. “We’ve also had an opportunity to interview a lot of teachers this summer who we’ve offered jobs to, and then they couldn’t afford the pay cut to come in, and so they had to stay where they were, and so we we lost on them.”
In order to accommodate the increase, they are looking to raise the tax from $1.26 to $1.29.
“I know with inflation and hard times that, you know the cost of everything, that it’s going to have an impact on our families, and we know that, and we’re concerned about that, but at this point, we” you’re also in a now-or-never situation with that,” Faulkner said.
The increase will increase teacher salaries by $7,000, staff salaries by $3,500 and bus driver salaries per route.
“We’re hoping that this … will get us a lot higher in pay where our teachers can stay here and still be able to pay their bills,” Faulkner said.
Early voting ends today in McLennan County. Election Day is November 8th and you can find your polling location here.
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