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Sabine ISD calls $19.8 million bond vote for elementary school campus

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 12, 2013 at 10 p.m.

LIBERTY CITY - Sabine ISD trustees voted 6-1 Tuesday to seek $19.8 million to replace the elementary school with a new facility in a new location.

The lack of unanimity highlights the sole point of dissension over replacing a campus built in 1935 and improved eight times during ensuing decades.

"I very much know we need a new elementary school - I know very few people in this community who do not (know)," trustee Martha Wright said after casting the lone dissent on the May 11 referendum.

Her issue, and that of one of seven residents who spoke during an open forum before the vote, was the location.

A district committee had recommended the new campus be on almost 45 acres the district bought for $630,000 in 2009 that's bounded on the south by the frontage road to Interstate 20.

"The people that elected me were outspoken in not wanting a school there," Wright said as the board adjourned to discuss personnel in closed session.

The open portion of Tuesday's meeting was in the high school auditorium to accommodate a crowd of about 75 - many of them teachers. Superintendent Stacey Bryce said several were members of the steering committee that recommended the bond and the I-20 location.

"I think ... everybody in here admits we need a school, need a new building," resident John Heffner told trustees.

Heffner noted that a bond to build a new elementary failed in 2009, when the cost was $15 million.

"And now it's pushing $20 million," Heffner said. "It's not ever going to be cheaper than it is now."

Insufficient electrical and technological infrastructure is one reason the committee cited for recommending the new campus.

Jane Lane, a committee member who has taught at Sabine Elementary since 1982, said the 600 kindergartners through fifth-graders deserve the best facility the community can provide.

"We do the best we can do," she said. "But at the same time, we all know there's a time to step up. and this is it."

Resident Eva Schuler warned the board against choosing the I-20 site.

"If you choose to put on the I-20 land, I believe that the security issues overwhelmingly need to override the issue of cost," she said. "I don't think the board heard people from a wide range of areas. I hate that we're going to spend the money to hold an election that I honestly feel will fail."

The board did not discuss either the need for a new school or where to put one before voting.

Although the motion to call the election did not indicate the school's location, preliminary designs commissioned by the district are suited to the interstate site, said Board President James Gray.

"The plans are there in place," he said. "We're moving forward with the architects. It will be on the new property."

If approved by voters in May,a campus security system will survey classroom wings, and classroom sizes will meet state standards unlike some of the classrooms now in use.

The debt is expected to add up to 27.8 cents to the local tax rate, for a total of almost $1.32 tax per $100 property valuation. That would add about $278 to the annual tax bill on a $100,000 home, though there would be no increase for homeowners 65 or older who claim a exemptions.



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