SISD board member Chad Elms addresses confusion regarding $75 million proposed school bond.
On Feb. 17, the Stephenville ISD school board voted to pass two bond proposals for the May ‘22 election.
Proposition A is a $50 million proposal for the building of a football/soccer stadium and Proposition B is a $25 million proposal for the building of: 1) a multi-purpose indoor facility, 2) construction of up to 8 tennis courts, and 3) the replacement/upgrading of the stands and press box at the SHS baseball fields.
While these are two separate, distinct propositions that will be voted on individually, they total $75 million dollars. Approvals of both propositions would result in a net tax increase of .0586 cents for our local taxpayers.
As many of you know, I voted against putting the bond propositions on the May ballot, so I wanted to make sure everyone understands I’m not against the projects…it’s the timing I am concerned about.
More specifically, I did not feel comfortable putting a $75 million dollar bond proposal on our May election ballot without having more adequate details, research and due diligence before proposing such a large project.
I think most everyone understands we need a stadium, as well as tennis courts and upgrades to our baseball fields. I don’t have objective data on this, but I would venture to say we’re one of the few districts (our size) in the state that does not have our own tennis courts, and anyone that has been to a home baseball game over the last several years knows they are “standing room only,” as our stands don’t have enough seating for our parents, students, or fans from the community.
As I stated at our monthly board meeting, as a former Yellow Jacket football player, I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of having our own home stadium.
Since the vote was passed, I do want to ensure our community understands why it was up for discussion in the first place.
Tarleton State University has been a gracious host to us for decades (let’s be honest, how many high school football teams get the opportunity to play their home games in a college stadium) but we were recently made aware their desire was not to renew our current lease contract at its expiration on July 31, 2025.
That said, there was some indication (though no guarantee) they may be willing to do a one-year extension at the end of our contract in a worst-case scenario. I understand it takes about 3 years to build a stadium from start to finish, and since we have about 3 ½ years before our contract expires (not counting any extension Tarleton may be willing to sign) this timeframe created a sense of urgency for the board to figure out where the Yellow Jackets will be playing football starting the 2025 football season.
Recently, there has been some mixed information as to if we could still play games at TSU because of their Division I status.
I do not believe their Division I status prohibits us from playing games there, and it’s reasonable to think we could still potentially host our home games opposite of Tarleton’s schedule and play a Thursday night game here or there, but the fact remains that Tarleton does not wish to renew the contract.
Since it does not make sense to play every game on the road, and neighboring towns do not have stadiums that will accommodate our fan base, we need to work together as a community to find a new home at a reasonable cost.
The items in Proposition B were discussed because the majority of the board felt there was an opportunity to upgrade some of our non-existent facilities (as I said earlier, we currently do not have tennis courts and our athletes have to use the courts at the city park, which is far from ideal), facilities we have outgrown (again, our baseball seating does not even come close to meeting the capacity for our home games) and to upgrade facilities that will prepare us for future growth (the indoor multi-purpose facility).
Many have asked me how the board came up with the specific numbers for the propositions. As I previously mentioned, the timing was somewhat quick considering the contractual information that became available during a recent conversation with TSU.
Because there wasn’t time to get full construction bids for the projects prior to placing the propositions on the May ballot, the SISD administration obtained rough estimates on the outlined projects based on what it would cost to build a comparable stadium/facilities from some of the other schools in our area. The board then utilized these projections for each of the projects on the bond proposals.
For Proposition A, cost projections on the football/soccer stadium ranged from around $20 million to $80 million, which is obviously a huge variance. The board chose $50 million dollars as the amount for the stadium, as that was sufficient to cover most of the projections, and the consensus was we should be able to build a new stadium or make improvements to Lem Brock Field (if found to be a reasonable option) for less than that amount. The $25 million for Proposition B was also based on rough projections we got from builders on the three projects proposed in that item.
I think everyone on the board fully realizes the timing of a bond proposal from an economic standpoint on this is tough. In fact, it probably couldn’t be worse given the state of our economy and current construction costs. In an uncertain time where we have record inflation, the feedback seems to be a proposed increase in school taxes is just one more thing causing members of our community to feel a “pinch.” I can’t tell you how much I wish we had done this 20 years ago, but the fact is we didn’t…and here we are now…needing to partner with our community to ensure our district’s needs are met.
In the upcoming weeks, I will propose we consider putting together a small committee to finalize the process of seeking community feedback, securing locations for these proposed facilities, solidifying designs that will provide nice facilities that represent our community well without “breaking the bank,” and in securing bids from multiple contractors for what these projects will cost.
In the meantime, our administration has put together a website which will also give additional details as to the finances and tax implications of these projects. I will post links to that site here when I get notice it is completed. This will obviously be a partnership between SISD and the community, and I look forward to giving additional information to the community as it becomes available throughout this process.
Place 3, Stephenville ISD board of trustees